CPD Classics: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) Review

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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) by ME!

Directed by Jeremiah Chechik

Written by John Hughes

Starring:
Chevy Chase
Beverly D’Angelo
Randy Quaid
Juliette Lewis
Johnny Galecki
John Randolph
Diane Ladd
E.G. Marshall
Doris Roberts
William Hickey
Mae Questel
Miriam Flynn
Nicholas Guest
Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Running time: 97 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
The Griswolds decide to stay home for Christmas. And this “vacation” is the funniest by far.

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My Opinion:

I love Christmas movies. When I was younger and had time, I’d watch loads of them through all of December. It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, etc etc… I don’t have the time for that these days but there are TWO Christmas movies I still try to watch every December without fail: Scrooged and, of course, this.

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I don’t think I need to go into this one too much – I’d be very surprised if anyone has actually not seen it. By far the best of the “Vacation” films, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation may not be It’s A Wonderful Life but is certainly every bit as much an American Christmas Classic. What I’ve always loved about it is that it SO accurately portrays a fairly typical American Christmas with crazy family (although of course exaggerated for comedic effect). I’m not sure if this one is as successful outside of the US – I WILL admit that it’s very “American”. My British hubby has never been able to relate to this one in the same way that I can and, since living in the UK, I’ve seen that Christmas is quite different here. But that’s probably made me love this movie even more – I can put it on each December and get all warm & fuzzy remembering my Christmases as a kid.

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The other thing I’ve always loved about this movie is that it’s actually REALLY EFFING FUNNY!!! Comedy isn’t exactly my favorite movie genre as there are so few that I’ve found funny over the years. But Christmas Vacation is hilarious. The mishaps with the Christmas lights, the crazy old aunt & uncle, the squirrel, the dry turkey, the cat getting fried, Danny Fucking Kaye, “it is a bit nipply out”, the snobby neighbors, the Star-Spangled Banner, Hallelujah! Holy shit! And, of course…. Cousin Eddie. How awesome is Randy Quaid in this movie? “Shitter was full!”. That’s right, James Stewart – I love you and Zuzu’s petals & your “Attaboy, Clarence” and all that but nothing beats “Shitter was full” when it comes to the all-time best Christmas movie quotes.

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Summary:

This movie never fails to cheer me up. I can’t imagine a Christmas going by without me watching it. It’s very American which makes me feel all nostalgic, it’s funny as hell, and it actually has a lot of heart without being annoyingly saccharine like most Christmas movies are. These are the reasons why National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a CPD Classic.

My Rating: 9/10

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**I could only track down the above poster art to Pinterest HERE. And I looooove this piece of artwork from artist Jude Buffum (site HERE).

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National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) Guest Review

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This review for the John Hughes Blogathon comes from Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger. Thanks for the reviews, Zoe! Zoe famously hated Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Let’s see what she thought of National Lampoon’s Vacation. 🙂

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“Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.”
– Clark Griswold

The Griswold family is destined to take a trip, but before it begins it even appears doomed. For one, their new car never arrived, and they had to settle for a Wagon Queen Family Truckster. Instead of the new sleek sportier station wagon, they get a hunk of junk. Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) is angry with her husband Clark (Chevy Chase) for having settled for the car as well as the fact that he insists they do not fly from Chicago to Los Angeles to the amusement park Walley World. He says it will be great bonding time. Their kids, Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron), are not thrilled with the prospect of driving cross country with the family.

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“Ed, I’m not your average everyday fool. Now I want my blue sports wagon and if you can’t get it I’m gonna take my business elsewhere! Where’s my old car?”
– Clark Griswold

However, it seems as though from the get go that things are just not going to work out for the family on their trip. They are plagued with numerous mishaps and problems pop up. Robbed, vandalised and falling asleep behind the wheel results in the family becoming a little demotivated. Clark is especially starting to feel the need for a good vacation but having Murphy perch on your shoulder. On the road, though, he sees a hot young blonde (Christie Brinkley) who seems to be interested and flirts back, at any rate. Clark flirts with her too, seemingly uncaring about his wife riding alongside him. The trip does not improve when they stop ever in Kansas to visit with Ellen’s cousin Catherine (Miriam Flynn) and her insane brood and mostly useless husband Eddie (Randy Quaid). It seems that Eddie is out of work, Catherine is pregnant again, and pretty soon they force the Griswolds to take Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) with them to drop at her son’s home in Phoenix. As though this was not bad though, her vicious dog Dinky tags along too.

The trip is truly not improving with the addition of Aunt Edna. If anything, she seems to be aggravating things quite severely. Clark sees the hot Ferrari driver again and hits on her some more and the family’s camping fails dreadfully. Clark eventually ends up killing the ever-violent Dinky when he forgets to put the dog in the car and lets it stay tied to the bumper. Mishap after mishap seems destined to plague the family, and Clark is getting edgier and edgier. He just wants his family time and a lovely vacation, something they all need, and is rapidly getting to the place that he will go to any lengths to get there. Aunt Edna proves to be a handful, and soon a wrong turn leads to the car taking quite the leap of faith and gets excessively damaged. Clark gets hustled for all his money and the trip is really hitting a serious low. It seems that the worst has already come, but more often and not he is proven wrong.

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“Hey Knucklehead, set us up with four Red Eyes will ya?”
– Clark Griswold

Will the Griswolds ever get to Walley World? What will Clark do about the hot Ferrari blonde? How are the kids dealing with the awful vacation that they have been subjected to? How much more of Clark’s lunacy can Ellen deal with before she is sick and tired of him? What is the family to do seeing as they are so low on cash and in a dilapidated and dying car?

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“Oh spare me, Clark, I know your brand of family fun. Tomorrow you’ll probably kill the desk clerk, hold up a McDonald’s, and drive us 1000 miles out of the way to see the world’s largest pile of mud!”
– Ellen Griswold

I will score this a 7/10. There were good things and there were bad things and there were plenty of 80s based things, but overall I didn’t hate this, but will certainly not be rushing to see it again. If Clark was my husband, I would have kicked his ass ages ago for his ridiculous behaviour with the blonde Ferrari girl. Then, point two, stopping by at the family in Kansas was a disastrous idea, that family was just all broken and gross and wrong (yes, me judging). Aunt Edna was a real pain, and had some slight (though at times forced) humour to add to the entire ordeal. There were plenty things that happened along the lines of the vacation that would have had me throw in the towel, and really, they should have just flown. He got hustled in dodgy downtown areas and tagged and all, though he could definitely open a school to teach you how to drive in your sleep! I must say that this movie has not aged the best of all time but it was not so bad that you were put off of watching it, though I must confess it felt longer than it was. This was my first viewing of it and it was pretty decent, truly. There were bits that were quite funny, though I have to say Clark was such a chop. He did, however, carry much of the movie for me. Seeing a young Eugene Levy was also entertaining for me, no matter how short his appearance was. Have I redeemed myself in your eyes somewhat, T9M? 😛

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) Guest Review

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This review for the John Hughes Blogathon comes from Diane of Tvor Travels. Thanks for another review, Diane! This is her second National Lampoon’s review after European Vacation. Now let’s hear her thoughts on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. 🙂

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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

The Griswold family are back for a third go-round and this time it’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Christmas also lends itself to a lot of stress, financially and emotionally and this year, Clark has the pressure of both.

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The fun starts with the Christmas tree hunt, skids into both sets of in-laws on full-bicker bode, Cousin Eddie and the whole family on board, complete with RV, and Clark’s over the top, wayyyy over the top light display on the house. Never mind being able to see it from space, you could see it on the other end of the universe. When it works, and when it doesn’t power down the whole city.

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Clark is determined he’s going to give everyone a memorable Christmas ever and, well, giving your family the Best Christmas Ever is fraught with its own pressures. and he does, but not quite the way he expected. His bonus at work is late and he’d hoped to use it to give his family an in ground pool but the bonus doesn’t materialize. Poor Clark, things go from bad to worse to utter chaos as usual and as usual, he feels like everyone is against him. But at rock bottom, when the the family name is defended against the insensitive boss, in the end, everyone’s happy but in the middle there are some really funny scenes as well as a few touching ones. In the end Clark gets back the Christmas spirit just when he’s run dry.

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This, for me, is even funnier than the first Vacation movie and is my favourite. The giant tree, the dry turkey, the fate of the cat, the bickering relatives with high expectations, the blindingly bright light display are all just a taste of what will tickle every bone in your funny. Even just the little scenes with a joke like sticky fingers had superb timing. The writing seems to sparkle, even more than the first Vacation movie. There are sweet scenes where Clark is watching old home movies in the loft and helping a little girl believe in Santa. There are manic ones like his rant about his boss, the toboggan ride, and the squirrel hunt. you can see Clark’s heart is as big as all outdoors and he can’t turn anyone away if he can give them a Christmas that’s special.

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The European Vacation movie suffered for not having buffer characters like Cousin Eddie (played by the wonderful scene-stealing Randy Quaid), the snobby neighbours and the in-laws and you really notice that in this movie where Clark can bounce off any number of wonderful characters, careening from crisis to crisis, supporting by his long suffering wife, played again by Beverly D’Angelo and by his son and daughter, Audrey and Rusty, recast again for this movie, this by by Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki as Audrey and Rusty in the best incarnations yet.

This movie quickly became a Christmas classic and they probably should have stopped the franchise here on a high note.

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John Hughes Movie Quote Of The Day: Christmas Vacation

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“We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.”

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985) Guest Review

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This review for the John Hughes Blogathon comes from Diane of Tvor Travels. Thanks for joining in on this, Diane! Let’s hear her thoughts on National Lampoon’s European Vacation. 🙂

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John Hughes was a force to be reckoned with back in the 80s in particular. He wrote so many wonderful films, many of them focusing on young people, “coming of age” type stories like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink just to name a few. But he also gave us some really good comedies,
family sitcom types like Mr. Mom and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, all featuring some of the funniest people on screen from that decade and into the 90s. In 1983 he introduced us to the Griswold family who set out to drive across country to a fabulous family theme park, encountering odd characters, odder relatives and one ludicrous situation after another. It was a huge hit so naturally, there was a sequel.

This is the second installment of the “Vacation” movies featuring the Griswold Family headed by Clark who’s well meaning but a bit of a bumbling doofus. But you know? He loves his family even if they’re not always grateful for it.

The movie opens up with the
Griswolds competing on a television game show called Pig in a Poke which they win when the answer to a question happens to be Clark’s name, uttered by his wife, foiling the all time winning family! Their prize is a vacation to Europe and we’re on the road again. Beverly D’Angelo again plays Clark’s wife, Ellen, and this time, Dana Hill and Jeremy Lively play the two teenage kids.

The Griswolds head off to Europe on a “luxury” grand tour but not before Clark and Ellen get frisky and video record their little session while trying out the brand new video camera, which by today’s standards is the size of a suitcase! That’s going to come
back to haunt them. Audrey the daughter doesn’t want to leave her
boyfriend for two weeks but Rusty, all hormonal as teenage boys are, just wants to get laid. But it’s a family vacation, by God, and we’re going to enjoy it!

The problem comes when none of the arrangements appear to be the
luxury level they were led to believe, from the grotty hotel rooms to the old rental cars. As always, Clark is so clumsy and confused that there’s a string of bruised bodies in his wake
including a British man on a bicycle they keep running into over and over everywhere they go. The bicyclist starts off being stereotypically polite, minimising his injuries and of course by the end he’s in a rage and he is played superbly by ex-Pythonite Eric Idle.

In London, there mistaken identities, driving on the “wrong” side of the road (that old chestnut!) and traffic circles that have them driving around the Houses of Parliament all day “Look, kids! Big Ben!” I still chuckle about that every time I see the famous clock tower now! In Paris, the language barrier means the whole family is the butt of the rude waiter’s jokes. In Germany while trying to find his relatives, of course they end up in the wrong house but are oblivious because they don’t speak German and then end up annoying the hell out of each other. Finally, in Rome, the
family become subject to yet another thief, the family isn’t speaking to each other and Ellen is splashed all over the
billboards as a “hot housewife” from *that* video, but they all pull together when danger threatens and you know they’ll end up forgiving each other by the time they head back to the U.S of A.

Clark waxes eloquent on all manner of subjects that make him sound officious and banal, ignorant and ridiculous but that’s the charm of Clark Griswold. Whether he’s oblivious of an insulting French waiter, knocking over ancient monuments, falling for a scam by a thief who runs off with their video camera (remember that naughty video?), shaking with frustration or ostracized by the family after one too many mess ups, you still like him. He’s
not one of life’s winners, but can he really be a loser when his heart is in the right place? When he just wants to spend time with his beloved family and keep to his precious schedule? When he wants everything to be perfect for them? You can’t help
feeling sorry for him at the same time that you’re laughing at him.

This is probably the weakest of the first three Vacation movies I’ve seen. I have not seen Vegas Vacation, the last installment but I’ve heard it would have been better left unmade. Unsurprisingly, John Hughes wasn’t involved in that one. It might have done better if he had been. It’s full of cliches, the “Ugly American Tourist”, that sort of thing, rather than original,
funny situations. I think the movie suffers from not having some of the excellent cameos and a really quirky secondary character that Clark can bounce off like Randy Quaid’s “Cousin Eddie”. It was partly filmed in London, Paris and Rome so you do get some
authetic city views which I always enjoy. The cameo with Eric Idle was brilliant, but that could be my fondness for all things Monty Python speaking here.

There are a couple of funny moments in this movie but it feels more forced and it’s not as good as the first one and the utterly brilliant Christmas Vacation which came next. Hughes redeemed himself there but Sequel Mania ruined more than one of his great ideas. I blame Hollywood.

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John Hughes Movie Quote Of The Day: Vacation

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“It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun… We’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes!”

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)