NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION – Film Review

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is really into Christmas and promises to make it a good one until he turns everything completely around, causing a domino effect of disasters.

It is genuinely hard for me to believe that I have never published a review of National  Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation until today, because it is, in all honesty, my favorite Christmas-related film of all time. It is a tradition in my family to watch this film once every single year a few days before Christmas Day. Every year, it is such a treat to gather around together and have fun watching this non-stop laugh riot and celebrate my favorite holiday and the most wonderful time of the year.

In terms of rewatching movies, I don’t really do that as much as I used to. Back in the day, I used to rewatch dozens of movies I had already seen and loved. There was one time a few years ago, in which I watched Richard Linklater’s School of Rock every day for ten days in a row. I have no idea why I did that to be honest. That must’ve been a massive favorite of mine back in the day.

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From left to right: Juliette Lewis as Audrey Griswold, Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold, Beverly D’Angelo as Ellen Griswold, and Johnny Galecki as Rusty Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989).

But regardless, Christmas Vacation is one of my most rewatched films of all time. If I were to take a shot in the dark, I would say that I have watched this movie about twenty or so times thus far. Since this is a film that is so close to my heart, those rewatches will keep coming every year. But let’s talk about why this film means so much to me.

Comedy films are great because they can put you in a genuinely great mood and uplift your spirits. They can make you forget about all of your real world troubles. Christmas is a holiday in which you can gather around with all of your friends and family and just celebrate life, laughter, and love. You can enjoy the comfort of one another, open presents, and just have an amazing time. Combing Christmas themes and comedy, makes for an occasionally great film. There are plenty of hilarious Christmas movies out there, but this is my favorite.

Why? Because this is slapstick to its most extreme. Every single comedic element in Christmas Vacation makes absolutely no sense. This is what I like to call an “absurd comedy”. A comedy that has so many crazy things that defy logic, yet are still so much fun to watch, maybe even more so than a regular comedy. For example, there is one scene in this movie that is absolutely ridiculous and straight up makes zero sense. It is the scene in which our beloved goofball protagonist Clark Griswold and his family go sledding. Knowing Clark, he does not use a regular sled, but instead, he uses a metal saucer as a sled. Going downhill, he suddenly shoots rapidly downwards and goes through traffic and ultimately ends up in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

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Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989).

Also the scene in which a giant icicle literally shoots through the window of Clark’s neighbors Todd (Nicholas Guest) and Margo Chester (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). Scenes like that are absolutely littered throughout Christmas Vacation, and if you think about the logic behind them for even a few seconds, it can be extremely silly. But, the reason why that is not a problem with this movie for me, is because John Hughes, the late writer of this film, knows what he is doing. He is fully aware that what he is doing is silly and off-the-charts ridiculous. None of these over-the-top sequences are meant to be taken seriously, but rather, we are supposed to be shaking our heads and laughing at the same time, which is exactly what I do every time I watch this movie.

In terms of a technical aspect, this is a really great movie as well. All of the cinematography is extremely well handled by director of photography Thomas E. Ackerman. Also, it has beautiful lighting, great editing and of course, the opening theme song, also titled “Christmas Vacation” and sung by Mavis Staples, is an incredibly memorable, fun, and charming way to kick off this zany, off the walls, hilarious Christmas classic.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a non-stop laugh riot, with extremely memorable moments, beautiful cinematography, and a heartwarming story at its core.

Overall Grade: A+

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, John Randolph, Diane Ladd, E.G. Marshall, Doris Roberts, Miriam Flynn, Cody Burger, Ellen Hamilton Latzen, William Hickey, Mae Questel, Sam McMurray, Nicholas Guest, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Brian Doyle-Murray

Directed by: Jeremiah S. Chechik

Distributed by: Warner Bros.

Running Time: 97 minutes

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