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Customer Review

106 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of the Vacation series, September 7, 2004
This review is from: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Special Edition) (DVD)
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.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 24, 2008 5:17:09 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Dec 30, 2014 9:02:10 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 24, 2008 10:48:29 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Dec 30, 2014 9:02:23 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2009 9:46:12 AM PST
Mr. Chesser,

Even if the two of you never see eye to eye, Mr. Leach has a right to his opinion. Mr. Leach's review is well written and makes cogent points about the movie.

Furthermore, Chevy Chase's past movie career performances, which I believe most would agree hits both highs AND lows, is a bit spotty. Mr. Chase DOES have brilliant comedic talent, both in verbal delivery, timing and a rare, exceptional talent for physical comedy--but he also has a knack for accepting some REAL dud scripts sometimes.

Personally, IMO (for whatever that's worth--and you're entitled to your opinion on that too) Mr. Leach's review is spot on for Family Vacation. It makes my short list of movies of which I could wear the DVD out, and still enjoy every viewing. Furthermore, it is written in clear, precise English, and is easy to read. That is a rarity these days.

On your side, although I think that 3 amigos was enjoyable (but not exceptional), Mr. Chesser, you need to learn some manners. You need to learn to disagree without being disagreeable.

(Here's a hint: First learn to disagree without making a complete @$$ of yourself.)

Posted on Dec 13, 2009 6:54:56 AM PST
James Petkus says:
Chevy Chase has had some sub par movies, but Spies Like Us and The Three Amigos are both classic 80s comedies! Christmas Vacation is a good movie that can stand on its own without need to tear down his other movies to make it look better in comparison.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2009 11:02:05 AM PST
J. Saners says:
Dude! You dissed Spies Like Us? I couldn't even pay attention to your otherwise excellent review because I was too busy having flashbacks of scenes from Spies Like Us and laughing.

KGB guy holding Chase hostage: "If you don't tell me...I cut off a finger."
Chase: Gulp..."Yours or mine?"

Chase summarizes the whole CIA (?) plot and how they're in Tajikistan or wherever and need help over the phone to the military guys in the secret underground facility.
Military dude: "He told you all this over an open phone line?"
Other military dude: "No, sir. He told his operator, and his operator told the AT&T operator who told me."

Brief interlude for another descent into hysterical laughter.

"Doctor...doctor...doctor...doctor...doctor...doctor...doctor...doctor..."

Come on, you know you're laughing. This bit has made it into America's cultural lexicon.

;-)

Okay okay...but thanks for going into the special features on the Christmas Vacation DVD, that's always exactly what I'm looking for on DVD reviews...doctor.

Posted on Dec 19, 2013 12:42:02 PM PST
Cory says:
I thought Clark was working on a non-nutritive cereal varnish, rather than a milk preservative.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 20, 2014 8:35:34 AM PDT
your right.
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