Wonderfully Horrible Netflix Instant Films: “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”

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bill-swift - December 4, 2013

Christmastime is upon us and 'tis the season for holiday movies. Every year we watch the same movies during December. It's as much a part of our traditions as the tree, Santa, and seething family resentment. It's not Christmas until you've watched It's A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story 1500 times. One film that is a much watch in the Tomas household during the holiday season is 1989's classic Chevy Chase holiday epic National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The first Vacation film is a dark masterpiece showing the dark underbelly of family life. The second one had a lot of tits. But Christmas Vacation is a wonderful turd dressed up in tinsel and holiday cheer.

In Christmas Vacation we join the Griswold family during an eventful Christmas season. Told in the framework of an advent calendar, every day we get closer to a massive Christmas blow-up. Clark Griswold wants to give his family the Platonic ideal of a perfect Christmas. He fails. Oh, lord does he fail. He takes the kids into the woods to chop down their own Christmas tree, they go sledding, and he decorates the house with more lights than Time Square, and plans to put in a pool with his Christmas bonus. Then his cousin-in-law Eddie shows up along with his parents and everything goes to crap. He ends up messing up Christmas with the same boneheaded idiocy as he screwed up the family vacation. The film ends on a wonderfully schlocky tone that is as satisfying than bad egg nog from a Wallyworld cup.

The script is bad and the direction is negligible but what saves Christmas Vacation is the over-the-top performances. Chevy is in classic form doing what he does best: play a bumbling a-hole. He's all that is worst in American fatherhood. Randy Quaid is equally wonderful as the slovenly redneck cousin Eddie. Who can forget him draining his RV's septic tank into the storm drain because "the $hitter was full"? Along with an amazing comedy ensemble including Beverly D'Angelo, Brian Doyle Murray, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Julliette Lewis, Doris Roberts, E.G. Marshall, and the great William Hickey as uncle Lewis, the film rises above its flimsy script to sublimity. Merry F'ing Christmas!

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