Did those who like a dose of cynicism with their holiday cheer, check out this absurd and hilarious Christmas comedy.
The third in the National Lampoons Vacation series, this movie follows the Griswold family as patriarch Clark tried his hardest to give everyone the perfect “fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.”
Of course insane hijinks ensue. Starting with wonderful stunt driving and ending with a SWAT team destroying the house. there is a bit for everyone in this movie. Puns? They’re here. Sex jokes? Plenty of them. Prat falls and physical bits? Absolutely. Insane destruction straight out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon? There’s plenty of it.
Anchoring it all is Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold. He gives a great comic performance that somehow balances a deeply cynical interior with a man who somehow believes that through sheer tyranny of will he can make everything perfect. His rant toward the end in which he finally loses it is one of the best bits of comic rage ever filmed.
So much of this film was clearly written from memory. Not memories of specific events, I doubt anyone has ever had a squirrel and a pit bull rampage through their Christmas get together, but memories of the feelings of Christmas. There’s a scene in which Clark walks downstairs and faces a bickering family crowded around the breakfast table, and he goes to the other room and looks out the window. Who hasn’t had a moment like that. Faced with the noise and chaos of the family at Christmas time some times it’s better to stand by the window and wait. Another great line that stands out is when the teenage son Russ complains about having to get a tree and waste a whole Saturday. The whole scene perfectly evokes that feeling of being a frustrated teenager who wants to do anything but hang out with his family. The movie is full of these moments that capture a snapshot of the reality of Christmas.
Of course the comedy launches into overdrive when Cousin Eddie shows up. Played by Randy Quaid, Eddie is a force of absurdity. His turn of phrase is classic “girl is in the clinic getting cured off the wild turkey.” His wardrobe is iconic a bathrobe, a bathrobe, leather hat and no pants is perfect. And the fact that he thinks that having a bigger heart than a brain is a compliment all add up to a fantastic and hilarious character.
It doesn’t all work, and it doesn’t all work for everybody. The neighbors are annoying and don’t really add much. The dog and squirrel chase is just too much and too long. But the film provides a madcap and hilarious look at the holidays from a perspective we don’t often get.
My cup of tea. A-