on December 30, 2000
With apologies to Jimmy Stewart and Ralphie Parker, this is my favorite Christmas movie of all time. If you are reading this because you have never seen "Christmas Vacation", stop right now and go to the video store and rent it. Then come back here and order your own copy because you'll want to watch it over and over again each holiday season.
The undisputed gem of the National Lampoon 'Vacation' series, the plot can be summed up very simply: idealistic family man Clark Griswold wants to host the perfect old-fashioned fun family Christmas. As all of us idealistic family men have discovered, there is no such thing as a perfect holiday, and that just about sums it up. The appeal of this film is that we can all relate to the disasters that holidays can become, regardless of how well-meaning we are and how hard we work to achieve them.
The cast is terrific. Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo (Ellen) are back as the Griswolds, with Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki assuming the roles of Audrey and Rusty. John Randolph and Diane Ladd are Clark's parents, while E.G. Marshall and the ultimate mother-in-law, Doris Roberts are Ellen's parents. Nicholas Guest and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss are Todd and Margo, the yuppie neighbors. William Hickey and Mae Questel (the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl) nearly steal the show as Uncle Lewis and senile Aunt Bethany. Randy Quaid does steal the show - his "cousin-in-law" Eddie is one of the all-time great characters in recent comedy history.
The self-inflicted situations that befall Clark in his holiday quest are peppered with memorable dialogue and slapstick, yet believable enough to bring flickers of recognition to most viewers. Witness his mishaps on the roof putting up the lights; getting trapped in the attic; spending his Christmas bonus before he gets it; dealing with his snooty neighbors; and getting hilariously tongue-tied at the lingerie counter and being remarkably eloquent when he gets his "bonus". Admit it. We've all been there.
A holiday movie should be one that holds up to repeated viewings, and this one does. Besides the excellent cast and the familiar situations, there is a great score by Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks), the animated opening credits sequence, and some fine tunes such as "Hey Santa Claus" by the Moonglows! There are numerous little touches that you might not catch the first several times - check out the shape of the packages in Mr. Shirley's office when Clark gives him his gift, and see what happens to the light bulbs Clark puts in the cart at the Wal-Mart.
I suspect, like in our home, "Christmas Vacation" has become a sort of institution in many homes each holiday season. We like to get together with friends to watch it, with everyone dressing as a character from the movie. We eat green jello with "cat food" in it, stand and join in the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner, recite the lines along with the characters, and give thanks that our holidays are at least a little better than the Griswolds'.
on November 7, 2015
Christmas Vacation on Blu-ray. Released on Tuesday and before you go thinking double or triple dip, this release is a substantial upgrade to every previous home release of the film. The average bitrate for this one is 32.87 Mbps vs. 18.51 Mbps and is opened up to a BD50 instead of a BD25. The sound has also received a major overhaul with DTS-MA 2.0 vs. the terrible DD 2.0 (192 kbps) on previous versions. Why post on this film? Because I watch it every year on Christmas morning and we finally have a home release worthy to be watched. Nice 2-disc steelbook with a top notch presentation.
"Eddie: You surprised to see us, Clark?
Clark: Oh, Eddie... If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now".
on July 23, 2003
Finally, after all this time, Warner Brothers have come to their senses. On October 7th, we will be treated to a heftly helping of one of the greatest Christmas films to ever grace the silver screen............in WIDESCREEN.
I was extremely disappointed with the previous DVD release of this film which contained a pan & scan presentation and nothing more than a theatrical trailer in the extras department.
What we have here is a special edition of this great movie, which will contain audio commentary from both Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase, a "making of" featurette, as well as other stocking stuffers which have yet to be disclosed at this present time.
Being a huge fan of this movie, I honestly can't wait for this release. "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" has become a holiday tradition in my home, and to be able to see it the way it was intended to be seen is truly a treat for me.
Aside from the features of the disk, the film itself is the true gift. One of the funniest movies today which still withstands the test of time even 15 years later. The premise is simple. Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase) is hell bent on having an old-fashioned family Christmas in his home, relatives and all. Of course, the hilarity kicks in when things start to go awry. There are so many hilarious scenes in this movie, it would be difficult to list them all. You have everything from an electrocuted cat, to a house with the brightest Christmas light display known to man. Let's not forget the dried up turkey, the saucer sled and the dog/squirrel chase! There's so much more I could say to praise this movie, but if you haven't already seen it, [I won't say more]
on November 16, 2013
Ever since it came out in the late-1980's, "Christmas Vacation" has been an annual viewing tradition for millions of people. The movie is up there with "Miracle On 34th Street", "It's A Wonderful Life", the Santa Clause Trilogy and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" (although on the language front, Vacation is nowhere as clean as those other classics).
Unfortunately, Warner's has not done a good job with the Blu-Ray. I also own the film on DVD, so I'm able to compare the two, and I would have to say that the DVD provides your best bang for your buck. On my 40" 1080p TV the upressed DVD looks equal to the Blu-Ray (the Blu-Ray has a bit that, for the most part, is right around the 10.0 to 15.0Mbps, with the occasional section between 20.0 and 25.0Mbps). Warner's did not put any effort into this Blu-Ray. I've never seen this movie on VHS, but others have told me that when they compared the VHS and DVD versions, they didn't find any real difference in terms of the master used. So it could be possible that this is a transfer that was made in the 1980's and was intended for airing on the old analog MUSE HDTV system that was in use in some parts of the world in the 1980's and 1990's.
Audio wise, again the Blu-Ray features the DVD's same Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track at a whopping 192kbps. The special features are also the same: theatrical trailer and cast audio commentary.
If you are looking for a copy of this video, just get the Standard Definition DVD version and just allow your DVD/Blu-Ray player to upconvert the video to High Definition.
Christmas classic, and FINALLY remastered---no, really!
No opinions required, just the facts:
This remaster has the BEST video/audio "bit-rates", to date!
You really take your life in your hands every time you sit down with a Chevy Chase film. Let's face reality here: Chevy Chase is responsible for several of the worst movies ever made. Does it take more than a few minutes of viewing to see the mind numbing folly of "Nothing But Trouble," "The Three Amigos," and "Spies Like Us"? Chase has sure had his truly embarrassing moments on the big screen. What redeems the guy, at least in my eyes, are several films that play up to the comedian's smart alecky, deadpan delivery. "Fletch," of course, is the gold standard of Chevy Chase films, but other movies showcase his talents just as well. I always thought "Deal of the Century" a classic Chase film, as well as "Foul Play" (although the latter was more of an ensemble picture). But we need look no further than the four National Lampoon Vacation films to truly judge the merits of this comedian turned actor. Actually, I should say three Vacation films since the second installment, where the Griswold family went on a tour of Europe, ranks as one of the most dreadful stories ever put on film. Of the three successful entries, "Christmas Vacation" is the best, perhaps even eclipsing the first movie that started it all.
You won't hear the familiar strains of Lindsey Buckingham's "Holiday Road" in "Christmas Vacation," and there are no corpses strapped to the top of a station wagon either. Instead, the film invites us into the Griswold home for an old fashioned Christmas celebration the likes of which soon reach catastrophic levels. Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) Griswold, along with their disinterested kids Audrey (Juliette Lewis) and Russ (Johnny Galecki), invite the whole family over for a season filled with happiness. Clark's parents Clark Sr. (John Randolph) and Nora (Diane Ladd) show up, as does Ellen's folks Art (E.G. Marshall) and Frances (Doris Roberts). And yes, even Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) makes an appearance to save the day. Of course, along with the family comes the inevitable frustrations and stresses everyone who has ever dealt with a reunion dreads. Clark Griswold refuses, at least initially, to fall into a morass of cynicism and despair amidst the bickering and insults. His invention of a new milk preservative has our hero hoping his Christmas bonus will be extra big this year, big enough so he can install an in ground swimming pool in the backyard. Unfortunately, his boss Frank Shirley (Brian Doyle-Murray) is a scrooge with plans to make the company more fiscally conservative.
While he waits for the check to arrive at the house, Clark embarks on several hilarious projects that haul in the belly laughs. His attempts to cover every square inch of his house with Christmas lights is a chore requiring several falls off a ladder, pointed verbal repartees with his snotty neighbors Margo and Todd Chester (Julia-Louis Dreyfus and Nicholas Guest), and repeated failures to get the strands to light up. The acquisition and installment of the Griswold family Christmas tree is another chore handled in Clark's inimitable style. Imagine the pine they string up in Rockefeller Square every year, subtract roughly five feet from its height, and you have the tree Clark insists on setting up in the house. This thing is so huge that the branches knock out the windows when Griswold cuts the rope holding the branches together. No Yuletide season, however, would be complete without a trip to the slopes for a sledding excursion, an event filled with disastrous implications when Griswold comes up with the bright idea to cover the bottom of his sled with a Teflon based substance. My favorite scenario involves Clark trapped in his attic for a few hours. He spends his time dressed up in women's clothing (to stay warm) watching old home movies of his childhood. His abrupt fall through the trap door had me laughing for hours afterwards.
The cast of "Christmas Vacation" gels fantastically, far better than any cast in the other three films. Kudos as always go to Randy Quaid as the squirrelly moocher Eddie; a film in this series just wouldn't be the same without this character driving Clark to fits of distraction. Beverly D'Angelo is one of those actresses who get hotter and hotter with age. The linchpin of the film is, as always, Chevy Chase as the disaster prone Clark Griswold. This is a role tailor made for his brand of clumsy, caustic humor. I don't know about you, but Chase's depiction reminds me in many ways of my own father--he won't listen to the advice of anyone else, his ideas are the best ideas, he tosses safety to the wind when working on dangerous projects, etc. But like my Dad--and probably countless other fathers--Clark is sincere and wants his loved ones to have wonderful family memories. The film works so well, I suspect, because most of us instantly recognize his character traits in our own beloved family patriarchs. Especially when Clark can't stand the pressure anymore and launches into one of his over the top tirades, again a trademark of our own fed up fathers.
Although the DVD carries the "Special Edition" tag, the extras are surprisingly sparse. A trailer and a commentary constitute the sum total of goodies available on the disc. Moreover, the commentary doesn't include Chevy Chase. At least you hear Randy Quaid, Beverly D'Angelo, Johnny Galecki, Miriam Flynn (Eddie's wife Catherine), director Jeremiah Chechik, and producer Marty Simmons, but why no Clark W. Griswold? Perhaps he wanted too much money. His absence is unfortunate and mars what is otherwise a great commentary track. I don't even wait until Christmas to watch this movie; it's fun works year round. If you haven't seen it yet, you ought to immediately. You'll love it.
on June 2, 2000
The Griswold family is set to celebrate the holidays like never before, in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik and written by John Hughes. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) has decided to have a traditional, old-fashioned family Christmas, and has invited his parents and in-laws to stay with them through the season. He has a surprise he wants to share with everyone this year; with his Christmas bonus from work, he's putting in a pool, to which he's already committed the down-payment money (so the bonus had better come through, big time, or he's "in it up to here"). To kick off the season, he takes Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) and the kids, Audrey (Juliette Lewis) and Rusty (Johnny Galecki) to the mountains to find the perfect "Griswold family Christmas tree. And it's only the first of one hilarious scene after another, as we follow Clark and clan through one long laugh-fest, filled with surprises and fun. Chase is at his best here, in the most enduring (and endearing) character he's ever done; Clark the Everyman, who only wants the best things for his family and himself, but whose plans more often than not go awry, doomed to fall just short of realization. When he decorates the outside of the house, he uses 25,000 twinkle lights; they use enough juice to black-out an entire neighborhood, and they do (once he can get them to work). Then when cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and cousin Catherine (Miriam Flynn) show up unexpectedly in the "RV" they now call home, Eddie asks Clark if he's surprised to see him. Surprised? Eddie is the last person on earth Clark expected, or wanted, to see. "Eddie," he tells him, "I couldn't be more surprised if I woke up tomorrow morning with my head sewn to the carpet." Another memorable scene involves a wild squirrel who came in with the Christmas tree and proceeds to make his appearance during dinner, only to provoke a wild romp upstairs and down as they all pursue (and in some cases try to elude) the deadly invader. A terrific cast was assembled for this movie, but Quaid is the stand-out, and he perfects the Eddie character in this one; forever the lamebrain with the big heart, and the one who takes the situation in hand when Clark's bonus turns out to be an enrollment in a jelly-of-the-month club. Clark's parents are played by Diane Ladd (Nora) and John Randolph (Clark, Sr.), and Ellen's by Doris Roberts (Frances) and E.G. Marshall (Art). Other notable performances are turned in by Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Margo) and Nicholas Guest (Todd), as Clark's yuppie next door neighbors, and also by William Hickey (Uncle Lewis) and Mae Questel (Aunt Bethany). Rounding out the supporting cast are Nicolette Scorsese (Mary), Cody Burger (Rocky), Ellen Hamilton Latzen (Ruby Sue) and Brian Doyle-Murray (Frank Shirley). "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is timeless comedy, a must for every video collection. It can be watched over and over again, and the humor stays fresh while the laughs get even bigger. There's a little bit of every family in here, and this movie may be just the tonic you'll need some day to get you through your own "special" holiday season.
on December 19, 2005
For children, the approach of Christmas is a time of breathless anticipation. For many adults, it is a feeling of slow strangulation. There is no question that this is an adult Christmas film, best watched after everyone under about age 14 is tucked safely into bed for their long winter's nap.
Don't fill your eggnog glasses too full, however; because fifteen minutes into "Christmas Vacation" you'll be laughing so hard that you'll be wearing your Old English and J&B on your reindeer sweater. Quite simply, this movie is the most side-splittingly funny film ever made about the American tradition of all getting together in one house for Christmas and driving each other nuts.
Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is the focal point of the hilarity, caught as he is in a futile struggle to live up to his own impossible expectations about himself and his role as his extended family's new patriarch and benevolent provider. The three sets of elderly grandparents who detest each other all add to his feeling of tension and pressure; and the uninvited appearance of cousin Eddy, his family and his snot-soaked dog in a moldering, ancient RV is the final jewel in this crown of comedic genius.
Add to this equation the whining teenage daughter, the ever-patient and eternally suffering son, the boss who doesn't even know his name, the Christmas bonus check that still hasn't arrived, and the 25,000 "Imported Italian Twinkle Lights" that simply refuse to light, (or twinkle,) and you have in Clark a man who is standing, as he howls at one point, "on the brink of Hell."
Throughout it all, the exquisite and irreplaceable Beverly D'Angelo breezes around as Clark's beautiful and inhumanly loving and patient wife; proving conclusively that even being married to the perfect woman isn't enough to make a man happy when he expects the superhuman from himself.
With these ingredients and these actors alone, we have a potentially good, funny, interesting film. There is, however, a third element that pushes this movie over the top and into the realm of true, timeless greatness; and that is the sheer love it has for the often burdensome cross of family.
I challenge you to watch this and not tear up at some point. When Clark finds old 8mm film of his childhood Christmases in the '50's; when his father comes out to the laundry room to give him a loving word of advice; when the godd**n lights FINALLY come on. These are just a few of the moments where I pretend my nose is stuffed up, and keep my face turned so that my tears are invisible. This film genuinely loves Clark and his all-too-familiar family; and even though each heartwrenching moment is likely to be followed by an exquisite gag that will have you crying and choking at the same time, I challenge you not to love yourself and everyone around you (even your relatives) just a little bit more after watching this classic.
on November 11, 2000
If this film is not already a Christmas classic, it will certainly be in that group a few years down the road. Aside from the "Vacation" series, this movie stands on its own legs as a hilarious look into the life of Clark W. Griswold, trying to give his family the great American Christmas.
There are very few slow moments in the film, which contributes to the fact that you can watch it over and over and over again, not getting sick of it (remember - a classic). It is also filled with countless memorable moments and one-liners, almost on par with "Caddyshack".
This film succeeds on two levels of comedy. The first is that it manages to place its characters in funny *situations* as opposed to simply having them try to speak funny lines. This is the mark of a lasting movie. The second level of success is in the humor itself (the dialogue, the one-liners, etc.). It has what it takes to be a classic.
All in all, this is one that you buy. You'll throw it in again and again starting around mid-november, and it will soon become part of your Christmas tradition.
on December 19, 2000
With the Christmas season approaching, I thought I'd give my review of Christmas Vacation. While some people are watching It's a Wonderful Life, I'm watching the hilarious antics of Clark W. Griswold.
If you've seen the other Vacation movies, you know that poor old Clark W. Griswold brings disaster with him wherever he goes. Although, with this go-round, he stays home this time, trying to throw a "Good-old-fashioned-family Christmas". But, of course, there's disaster at every corner. Clark staples himself to a storm gutter putting up Christmas lights, which cause brownouts. A squirrel lives in his Christmas tree. His cousin's doberman brings down the house. Literally. His snooty neighbors won't cut him any slack. He puts an experimental kitchen lubricant on his pan sled. And, on top of that, his hilariously goofy cousin (Randy Quaid) shows up without warning.
The cast is great. Chevy Chase is, as always, histerical, as is Beverly D'Angelo as his smart-aleck wife. Julia-Louis Dreyfus is great as one of Clark's stuck-up neighbors, but the funniest role has to be Randy Quaid as Clark's redneck cousin, Eddie. Quaid was perfect for that role, as well as the rest of Clark's and Ellen's families. I also like the animated Santa intro to the movie, where Santa visits the Griswold residence. If you think you're having a bad holiday, one viewing of this film will quickly change your mind. If you don't laugh at this movie, I will come over to your house and force you to watch this movie several times over. You have to see Christmas Vacation at least once. How could you not laugh at Clark's antics?