National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Jeremiah Chechik, 1989)
Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is an upper middle class father of two teenagers Audrey (Juliette Lewis) and Russ (John Galecki) and he wants to throw a classic Holiday just like when he was 10 years old back in 1959 with his entire extended family including his uncle Lewis (William Hickey) his aunt Bethany (Mae Questel) and his wife’s (Beverly D’Angelo) cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid). Add in Sam McMurray, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, John Randolph, Diane Ladd, E. G. Marshall, Nicholas Guest, Brian Doyle-Murray, and the beautiful Nicolette Scorsese and you have my family’s Holiday favorite.
In fact, every year a couple of days before Christmas we get together and 10 to 12 in our living room and watch the film together. We know every quote and laugh at the same gags every year and it makes the viewing of this classic memorable every time.
Analyzing a movie that popular that I cherish as one of the best comedies of all time despite some of its flaws is very difficult for me and this review will sure be tainted with sheer enthusiasm. But I must mention as a more serious filmic note the music by Angelo Badalamenti that also worked on David Lynch’s films since Blue Velvet.
Written by one of the best writers of commercial pictures of the 1980’s, John Hughes, one of the reasons why the 1950’s came back in fashion in the 1980’s, Christmas Vacation has this nostalgic feeling that recreates the spirit of the Christmases we loved as kids and that made our memories of them. Seeing a mature man like Clark trying to recreate his memories and failing every time because only the present can be created and he has to accept the fact that it can’t be as perfect as in his memories. Even if everything goes havoc, Clark as resources to fix it in the worst possible way. Hughes’ script plays as a series of moments and gags that are linked by a man’s wanting to do good things for his family.
Speaking earlier of the flaws of Christmas Vacation, which I think is blasphemous, I think that the episodic writing of the film that reminds of comic strips might slow down the story and lessen the quality of the film. There’s also some parts of over acting that makes it close to a sitcom more than a feature film. Just like Martin Scorsese or Peter Bogdanovich once said, we don’t love those movies despite of their flaws but because of their flaws. They personally never bothered me because I believe that laughter and a great gag will always be efficient.
Finally, I must confess that all year long I try to not think too much about the film and its quotes to keep it special for the holidays. But once we get the first snow on the ground I’m unstoppable and I can’t wait to watch it again every year.
So that’s it, after many years of movie blogging I tried to review National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation but I did not knew how to do it. My angle of attack was to write about what I liked about it, everything, and how I felt when watching it, happy and nostalgic. I did it!