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National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (DVD) Review
Hands down, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is the best Christmas-themed comedy ever filmed. Personally, I make it habit to watch this movie about ten million times between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Even after seeing the film so many times that I can recite it word-for-word, Christmas Vacation remains as hilarious and entertaining as the previous holiday season. More than just a seasonal film, it’s one of those rare comedies that it near perfect from beginning to end.
Christmas Vacation follows the ongoing exploits of Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and the Griswold family, but this particular rendition of the classic Vacation movies is arguably the best. As in the previous films, Clark’s goal is to create the perfect vacation for his family. Only this time, instead of hitting the road for Wally World or flying to Europe, the Griswolds stay at home in suburban Chicago.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (mere months away from signing on for the role of Elaine on Seinfeld) makes several appearances as Clark’s annoying, yuppie neighbor Margot, a character accompanied by her equally elitist yuppie partner, Todd (Nicholas Guest). Randy Quaid makes a return appearance as Cousin Eddie, playing the same role from the original Vacation film. As Clark’s unsophisticated and backward relative, Eddie is a man whose “heart is bigger than his brain”. Beverly D’Angelo also returns in her previous role as Clark’s wife, Ellen.
When Clark vows to create “the most fun-filled old-fashioned family Christmas ever,” things naturally go awry. With the Griswold family and their in-laws living under one roof, the relatives constantly get on each others’ nerves. Clark sets out to decorate the house for Christmas, and his quest culminates in a 25,000 light extravaganza that covers every square inch of the house. In the process, he nearly breaks his neck several times and knocks out Todd and Margot’s window with a flying lance of roof gutter ice.
The laughs multiply several times over when Cousin Eddie arrives uninvited and parks his RV in the Griswold driveway. In tow are his wife Catherine, their two kids Ruby Sue and Rocky, and their lovely dog “Snots”. The crescendo of disaster steadily increases as Christmas Day approaches with Clark’s agony compounded the absence of his annual Christmas bonus. Clark’s big Christmas surprise for the family is that he’s putting in a pool, but in order to start work as soon as the ground thawed out, he had to put down a hefty deposit which his check won’t cover without the Christmas bonus.
After a Christmas Eve in which the turkey explodes, Aunt Bethany’s cat electrocutes itself, Uncle Lewis burns down the tree, and a squirrel gets loose in the house, a late night knock on the door provides Clark with hope. A deliveryman hands him an envelope which fell between the seats, the fabled Christmas bonus. But when the bonus isn’t quite what Clark expected, Cousin Eddie surprises Clark with an unexpected last minute gift.
Originally released in 1989, Christmas Vacation has surprisingly little content that makes it seem “dated”. As such, it’s certain to be a holiday viewing tradition for generations to come. With some of the best one-liners in all of comedy, you’ll find yourself reciting its dialogue for many Christmases to come. But what makes Christmas Vacation such an enduring film is that everyone who watches it can relate to the events within. Almost everyone has a strange relative like Eddie or a pair of snotty elitist neighbors, and of course, who hasn’t had a squirrel ransack their house on Christmas Eve? Overall, this movie is a barrel of laughs. If you don’t like it, you probably aren’t breathing.
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