Top 10 Reasons to Love Christmas Vacation
There seems to be a different kind of Christmas movie made for everybody. Your traditionalists have their WONDERFUL LIFE and MIRACLE ON 34th. Silly kids can watch enough FROSTY and RUDOLPH to last a lifetime. Feel like some excitement? Watch DIE HARD or GREMLINS. Feel like an asshole? Watch THE REF or BAD SANTA. From the serial killers that find comfort in BLACK CHRISTMAS to the sappy bastards that still cry during HOME ALONE, everyone has that one movie that makes them feel warm and fuzzy as they curl next to the fire and pound shots of rum and eggnog. My buddy Tim swears by the fun loving antics of the Parker's in A CHRISTMAS STORY. I live and die with NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION. Every year we sit down with a case of holiday moonshine and violently discuss why our movie is better than the other. I'm here to tell Tim, and all the rest of you non-believers, why the Griswold's need to be a part of your holidays every year. Merry Christmas and I'll see you next year.
Juliette Lewis may be the third actress to play Audrey in as many movies, but nobody has done it better. She took a character that was previously labelled a complete moron and annoying as hell and made her the most relatable of the bunch. She realizes everyone around her is an idiot and constantly reminds them with perfectly timed sarcasm mixed with a smidgeon of teen angst and bitchiness. From the moment her eyes freeze while searching for the perfect tree (see above) and she gets groped by her brother while he's sleeping, we feel her pain.
I've never been a big fan of using animals for cheap laughs but something seems right here. Cousin Eddie brings Snot, a two hundred pound rottweiler with a sinus infection and giant balls. Aunt Bethany wraps up her cat and then releases it so it can chew on the tree lights and fry itself to death. And, of course, let's not forget the SQUIRREL!! This little bugger finds his way into the family tree and proceeds to lead Snot on a high speed chase throughout the house destroying any and everything in their path.
Back in 1989 I was a curious little fifteen year old whose life pretty much revolved around the presence of boobies. That's why this slapstick comedy turned into a soft core porno for me the second "This Chick" (Nicolette Scorsese) appeared on screen. Her ridiculously low cut top, skimpy underwear modeling, and form fitting bathing suit always make my holidays a little warmer.
Some of the cast gets centered out throughout the list, but each of them delivers in their own way. There isn't one character that doesn't have at least one line that makes me laugh. Some of the minor playing highlights are Uncle Lewis' disregard for everything but his stogie, Russ' promise to become just like his father one day, and the little fat kid that doesn't talk. It's not really Christmas until you have a house full of assholes gathered around a bone-dry turkey reciting the Pledge of Allegiance while the dog barfs under the table.
There's always been something about Beverly D'Angelo that drives me a little wacky. Maybe it's her tiny overbite. Maybe it's that hint of cleavage in her new holiday outfit. Maybe it's because I know Pacino used to hit that. Whatever it is, Bev is her old reliable self here standing by her man no matter what kind of stupidity he falls into. It takes a special kind of woman to stick with a guy that destroys every f*cking vacation your family has ever been on. My wife would have left me at Wally World.
Never mix experimental lubricant, large shiny saucers, and a very steep hill. Clark ignores this valuable advice and sets out to show the kids how to properly sled down a hill and come within an inch of your life in doing so. If you don't laugh out loud when Clark blows by the other people on the hill with a trail of fire you need to check your pulse. He proceeds to needle his way through a forest, some snow banks, a shed, camp fires, a jam-packed highway, and finally meets his match in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
I honestly can't think of any other character, in any movie, that made me laugh so hard with every line of dialogue they have. "Is your house on fire, Clark?" "Don't throw me down, Clark." Is Rusty still in the Navy?" "Is this the airport, Clark?" "Grace? She passed away thirty years ago." Throw in the Pledge of Allegiance, The Star Spangled Banner, wrapping her cat and Jell-O as presents, and the fact that she doesn't even notice the chaos caused by the SQUIRREL!!, make Bethany a member of the Minor Character Hall of Fame.
This could be Chevy Chase's last great performance. All the magic of his Saturday Night Live days is present. His scenes with Cousin Eddie are legendary. The physical humour hits all the right chords and the sarcastic timing (a type of humour he might as well of invented) is at an all time high. When the time is right, I'm still hoping Chevy can find the time to re-visit some of the brilliance that made him such a comedic icon over a decade ago.
"Merry Christmas, shitter's full!" You know those roles that some people are born to play? This is Randy Quaid's. The fact is, he's never been this funny in anything else he's ever done (his role in MOVING comes close). My favourite moment comes in the department store when he and Clark are doing some grocery shopping. Eddie discusses the fact that times are tough and why he can't afford to buy his kids any gifts while loading 8-10 humongous bags of dog food to their cart. He really is Santa Claus.
Through all the mayhem that is involved with a Griswold Christmas, you still leave the film with a sentimental lump in your throat. Between the laughs are hidden bits of real holiday warmth. Watch as Clark watches old home movies in the attic, look at his eyes as everyone of those 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights blasts through the darkness of the night, find out what it's like to find the perfect tree, watch little Ruby Sue's face as she learns Santa might actually come see her this year, and try not to feel proud as Clark watches his lawn ornaments rocket past the moon and he quietly says "I did it." You did do it Clark, and you'll keep doing it every year for the rest of my life.