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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

This movie should have been a failure. The first Vacation film is a classic and hilarious in its own right. European Vacation was utter trite and couldn’t hold a candle to the original. How could anyone fall in love with this film after such a failure? Easy: Kept the Griswolds at home and let the family come to them instead. What ensues is pure hilarity.

The Griswolds, Clark (Chevy Chase), Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), Audrey (Julliette Lewis) and Rusty (Johnny Galecki), decide to stay home for the holidays in order to have the family come over instead. Clark is anticipating his Christmas to put in a pool and intends to have a good old-fashioned Christmas to make it through the holidays. Clark, failing to realize how the Vacation series works, ends up having a really awful Christmas with Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) annoying him as always, the lights on the house causing a power outage, a cat being burnt to death and dying as a Christmas tree catches fire and a very crappy Christmas dinner. This all builds to his bonus being a membership to the Jelly of the Month club, leading to the mother of all mental breakdowns.

Holy shit, where is the Tylenol indeed. Clark soon realizes the true meaning of Christmas and happiness, even if Cousin Eddie decided to go a kidnap Clark’s boss to yell at him personally with the SWAT team coming in to make matters worse. Clark does get his wish in the end, even if some laws, rules and a bunch of crap has been broken.

The thing that makes this film work is the comedy. It’s over-the-top, hysterical and an absolute riot. Chase and the group take everything seriously and no one misses a beat. Chase really nails his rant above to a tea that everyone would feel for him. The film takes the humor that can come from being together at Christmas and takes it up to eleven. Another thing the film does is capture Clark’s longing for a classic version of Christmas and how he loves the season. He is filled with glee and delight, yet when it goes to hell with him screaming that they are “gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye,” he seems damaged that his dream isn’t there. It makes Clark human again and helps us long for him to be happy as well.

Christmas Vacation is a great comedy and ends the 80’s Christmas movies on a high note. Next time, the 90’s finally come to play with more personal takes on the films since those are the ones I grew up watching.

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