National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation review

Despite the triumphant return of Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo (the same cannot be said for either of their children), I have often observed that fans of the first two National Lampoon’s Vacation films do not necessarily enjoy Christmas Vacation (and vice versa), apparently due to the fact that it is a Vacation film in name only. With Lindsey Buckingham’s insufferable earworm “Holiday Road” finally replaced by Mavis Staples’ more pleasant theme song “Christmas Vacation” and nary a mile traveled by the Griswold family, this film might as well be titled National Lampoon’s Christmas.

Indeed, as Christmas comedies go, Christmas Vacation is a superb alternative to It’s a Wonderful Life, with a surprising amount of heart crammed between the obligatory scatological gags. Even the Griswolds’ crude but well-meaning “cousin-in-law” Eddie Johnson (Randy Quaid), who unexpectedly arrives with a decidedly different clan of yokels in his run-down trailer to once again upstage Clark Griswold (Chase) for the holidays, receives a somewhat kinder treatment from the writers than he did in the first film, though uptight yuppie neighbors Margo (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Todd Chester (Nicholas Guest) do not fare as nicely (as is 1980s custom).

With constant chuckles and the occasional belly laugh derived from Clark’s bumbling and futile attempts to provide a perfect Christmas experience for his far-from-perfect immediate and extended families, Christmas Vacation is alternately a solid swan song to the golden age of the franchise whose humor in two decades plummeted from the likes of Harvard to Yale by the Jail (reparations to “Cougars & Mustangs” forthcoming); a worthy inclusion to the Fremont Rewind series; and a Jelly of the Month Club even the most disgruntled worker would instantly join (if you don’t understand that reference, that’s only another reason to see it).

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