In 1989, the Griswold family came together again, and after trips to a California theme park and a tour of Europe the family is staying home and Clark (Chevy Chase) gets to host the big family celebration he has always wanted. Populated by a solid cast and a great mix of slapstick humor and verbal jousting, Christmas Vacation is a welcome entry into the National Lampoon’s series of films--which include the wonderful Animal House and the original Vacation--as well as a great Christmas movie.
Organized like the Advent Calendar, Christmas Vacation is a series of vignettes that illustrate experiences that are familiar to most Americans: The process of getting a tree, having to give up your bed because your obnoxious family is in town, and overcoming every obstacle en route to the holiday.
The performances in Christmas Vacation are excellent, the plot is breezy and well edited, and nearly every joke hits. But the best part of Christmas Vacation is that it lacks the cynicism that many of us have developed. It doesn’t bemoan the commercialism of the Christmas season but instead keeps its focus on the familial aspect, bringing us into the Griswold home to take part in the familiar madness of the holidays.
There is a broad range to the humor that will tickle nearly every viewer. Chevy Chase is a master of verbal jousting, as evidenced from his performance hosting the Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live in the 1970s, and that skill comes through with believable delivery of absurd lines that would sound ridiculous coming out of the mouth of anyone else. There are parodies of a variety of movies, including the classic Sunset Blvd. and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. There are pratfalls, stunts, and explosions to appeal to any viewer.
Christmas Vacation has a great heart and the right perspective on the holidays: Things will go wrong but as long as you get to spend time with family then the season can be considered a success. Alternatively touching and hilarious, Christmas Vacation is a wonderful movie and an easily recommended for the Christmas season.