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 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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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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National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982) Guest Review

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This guest review for the John Hughes Blogathon comes from Brian of Hard Ticket To Home Video. Thanks for being a part of this blogathon, Brian! Let’s hear his thoughts on National Lampoon’s Class Reunion. ๐Ÿ™‚

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National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982)

**spoilers throughout**

Starring: Gerrit Graham, Stephen Furst, Miriam Flynn, Zane Buzby, Fred McCarren, Blackie Dammett

Directed by: Michael Miller (Danielle Steel’s A Perfect Stranger; Danielle Steel’s Heartbeat; Danielle Steel’s Daddy; Danielle Steel’s Palomino; World’s Deadliest Volcanoes)

Written by: John Hughes (Baby’s Day Out; Curly Sue; Dutch; Dennis the Menace; Flubber)

Synopsis: It’s 10-year reunion time at Lizzie Borden High, but the merriment turns deadly as one psycho classmate terrorizes the Class of ’72 in his frenzy for revenge!

Best part: The one time my throat made a slight chuckling noise was when Egon, the vampire classmate (only so they could shoehorn in some random vampire jokes), was putting the moves on a woman, and she told him it was that time of the month, and he turned to the camera and licked his chops. Very stupid, but it’s still the funniest thing that happens in this dumb movie.

Worst part: It’s great to see Anne Ramsey in a fight scene, but there was really no reason at all for Walter to murder the old lunch lady, especially when he doesn’t murder anyone else after that (unless he murdered the adulterous couple, I don’t know, they’re never mentioned again). I know he’s nuts, but he’s really shitty at getting revenge on his classmates.

Best line: Hubert Downs: [Walter is threatening to stab Meredith] “Walter, can we see her naked before you kill her?”

Nudity: One slide of bare boobs.

Worst part: Blackie Dammett plays the killer, Walter Baylor. Blackie’s real name is John Kiedis, and he’s the father of Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Overall: This is one I’ve been meaning to watch for the “What Were We Thinking?” section of our website because I recall watching this several times as a kid and loving it. I don’t know why. I probably thought the killer’s mask was neat-looking. Watching it now, this movie is just dull and stupid. I know it’s supposed to be an outrageous spoof comedy, but even outrageous spoof comedies need to make sense. For example, the killer padlocks the front doors (one chain, one padlock) and none of the dozens of people can find a way to break one padlock, or one wooden door. Later on, Gary (the class zero) gets an axe from the wood shop, and manages to break the door down with it, but not until much later. Nobody thought to just go grab the axe right from the beginning? Then in a later scene, the devil-possessed woman shoots fire out of her mouth and blasts a hole in the wall. She couldn’t have done that to the front door? And it goes on and on. Characters are forgotten about, the killer has some sort of perfect human mask-making machine, etc.

Anyway, since this is the second National Lampoon movie and came out a few years after the classic Animal House, people must have been SORELY disappointed in this, especially if they saw Stephen Furst and the words “Class Reunion” and thought it may have been a reunion of the Animal House guys. This movie is probably only slightly better than the National Lampoon dregs they crap out today.

So what’s positive? The sets aren’t bad I guess. There’s kind of a Clue vibe going on throughout, except Clue is good. In Class Reunion, 98% of the jokes are flatter than Silly Putty after Kevin Smith sat on it. But it has a good cast. Gerrit Graham is a legend, that goes without saying, and Stephen Furst makes a great slimeball, and Zane Buzby is a pretty underrated, freaky-looking actress. I suppose if you have to have a totally random devil-possessed girl in your movie she’s an excellent casting choice.

But overall, this movie is just boring and a bit of a chore to sit through in parts. It’s not completely unwatchable, but it’s not really worth watching. John Hughes stated that he regretted how this movie turned out, and it’s easy to understand why. Fortunately, his next screenwriting effort was much better (Vacation) and eventually he would write Baby’s Day Out, which some consider to be the finest film ever released to cinemas.

Score: 4 handjobs from your twin sister (out of 10)

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**Over at Hard Ticket To Home Video, they’re running the hilarious “You Dumb Kids” in which people write about movie misconceptions they had as a kid. You can read my (rather embarrassing) entry HERE. Thanks for letting me join in & embarrass myself, guys! ๐Ÿ™‚