It seems like I’ve kicked off this month of Christmas watching with some undeniable modern Christmas classics and it continues with #4, which just so happens to be one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is great for a number of reasons: it’s eternally quotable, the physical comedy is top-notch, and the horrors of the holiday are all too relatable.
For the better part of my childhood, my parents hosted Thanksgiving. We’re Italian, so that means much more than turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. The whole day is an event of gluttony and at the peak, my parents hosted upwards of thirty people. I’ve seen drunken adults fight over politics; others nearly fall onto a toddler, and a toilet wind up on the front lawn. Thanksgiving, when done correctly, can be a shit-show (sometimes literally, in the case of the toilet episode). Suffice it to say, the mayhem that occurs at the Griswold’s hits pretty close to home.
Christmas Vacation is obviously a continuation of the National Lampoon Vacation series, but it works as its own standalone film. If I remember correctly, this is the first of the series I actually ever saw, as this was the only one that we owned on VHS growing up. As classic as the original Vacation is, I feel this one is the best of the four films and it has a lot to do with the Christmas setting.
Who doesn’t dread the part of the holidays that involve the older generation? A lot of the tension in the film revolves around the parents of Clark and Ellen coming to stay for the week as it gets closer and closer to the holiday. Throw in a spacy aunt, crotchety uncle, and the ne’er-do-well cousin and his clan, and the Griswold house is filled with people ready to get on Clark’s nerves.
Outside of these films and Caddyshack, I’ve never really been a big Chevy Chase fan. I was born when he was on Saturday Night Live, so his importance was a bit lost on me. Here, though, Chase is at his best. I just posted the video of his meltdown for our 5 For Friday last week, and that is evidence enough to show how good he is in this movie.
Randy Quaid steals the movie, however. Sure, Dennis might have gotten all the looks, but he’s never had a character quite as iconic as Cousin Eddie. The image of Eddie emptying the chemical toilet in his bathrobe should be printed on money as far as I’m concerned. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one need only five.
All around, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation combines the terrifying notion of hosting a holiday party and the slapstick style of Chevy Chase but it never loses the heart and charm of the holiday.