Countdown to Claus: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)


I’m definitely not having half of my family over for Christmas now.

Hapless Clark (Chevy Chase), exasperated Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and their ever-changing kids (Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki) gear up for Christmas. As usual, all the good intentions in the world can’t save them from disaster … or Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid), whose unannounced visit throws the house into further disarray.

Since it’s “the most wonderful time of the yeaaaaarrr” I thought it would be cool to do a little Christmas-movie marathon starting with a film that I loved when I was a kid, but now realize that it’s not as funny.

John Hughes wrote this screenplay and has a great blend of some real silly humor that gets mixed in with a lot of the cartoon mayhem that occurs around the time of Christmas. Hughes is obviously not afraid to get a little goofy with this film as he throws a lot slap-stick in our faces with Clark Griswold getting hit in the chin, then falling down a ladder, then falling through the ceiling, and then basically everything else catching on fire. I like how Hughes is able to have a little fun with this screenplay and is able to show his goofy side.

My problem with the script though is that there surely is a lot here in this script that is pretty annoying and not very funny at all. The slap-stick at first was funny but then there were scenes that went on way too long that seemed too cute to actually be considered funny. There’s a long-ass scene with a squirrel running rampant throughout the whole house-hold and everybody is running around like a bunch of goons to bring out some sort of laughter, when in reality, this was just a lame way to get some laughs. This isn’t the only scene that tries a little too hard to be funny but I can easily say that it’s the one I remember mostly rolling my eyes at.

Although I may rag on this film for not being terribly funny, like it was trying so hard to be, I still think it captured a lot of the fun, warmth, and joy that goes into the holiday season. I mean you got you’re whole family right there with ya’ to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and the whole “getting the perfect Christmas tree” to the “lighting of the lights” is what really will make you feel all happy even if the comedy can’t do that much all for you.

Chevy Chase is great as as always as Clark Griswold who always seems to have everything figured out, until something changes right away to completley terrible. Chase has mastered this role and he shows no signs of a bad performance but it’s also a real shame considering that this guy doesn’t really do much now. The last time I probably saw him was actually in ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ and to be brutally honest, he was the most forgettable part of that forgettable film. That’s saying something.

Randy Quaid seems to be having a lot of fun as Clark’s cousin, Eddie, who is a total country bumpkin which is where the majority of the jokes for this film come from. I’m not saying Quaid is bad or anything here, because he’s actually one of the more delightful performances in this flick, it’s just that all of the jokes here centered around him just being this total red-neck that can’t pay for anything or even use his head right. They pulled this joke about 15 times and wasn’t funny once so I have to say that Quaid kind of got pulled under the neath the crap-shoot here.

Consensus: While Christmas Vacation isn’t funny the whole time, there is still enough silliness and warm moments to make this a great seasoned treat for anyone wanting a nice little laugh right next to the Christmas tree.

5.5/10=Rental!!

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6 comments

  1. This is one of those films that I see the faults with but can’t help but still love. Much like Scrooged, this film has a special place for me because it signifies Christmas and is a film that I used to watch every year with my whole family. I am looking forward to reading more of your takes on Christmas films.

  2. I liked this film a lot. It’s hilarious though I agree that I too, don’t like having a lot of family for the holidays either. In fact, I really don’t like them. I hate my aunt’s stupid Xmas parties which I’ve avoided going to for more than a decade so far because it’s boring. There’s always some asshole butchering songs with an acoustic guitar. I wanted to grab that fucking thing and bash it against his fucking head.

    Sorry, I got into a rant. It’s not one of my favorite times of the year these days because I don’t really feel excited about it other than just getting presents.

  3. Not the best in the series, but far from the worst. I saw Christmas Vacation 2 this week, and well, if you didn’t care for this one, you’re gonna hate that one. It seems like this franchise started high with Vacation and europena vacation and then started on a bit of a downward slope with this, only to end up crahsing and burning with vegas vacation and everything that followed…ugh!

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