I kind of remember National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation as funnier than it is, through younger and rosier colored glasses. Sometimes things don’t really stand up to the passage of time, and this ‘Vacation’ movie from 1989 seems darker and a little bit meaner than I remember. It’s rather judgmental, taking potshots at the expense of people’s quirks and personalities.
For example, the bits with the neighbors (with Elaine from Seinfeld) were distinctly unfunny. I’m not sure why I was supposed to laugh when Clark Griswold crashed a tree into their bedroom, for example. That’s an expensive fix and could have killed the couple. Was their big crime being stuck-up yuppies? I felt a little bad for them.
And then when the elderly couple arrived, the jokes around them seemed mean-spirited, relying on the “old is funny” trope. Which, really, it isn’t.
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Also, it seemed a little odd on Clark’s part to let no inch of his house be uncovered by lights. It wasn’t pretty — it was just very bright. (And probably super expensive in electricity.) I can admire an artistic use of Christmas lighting, but this wasn’t it.
The nicest moment was when the little “redneck” niece hoped Santa would find her there, since he missed her last year. I rooted for her to have some kind of sweet holiday morning. Here was some actual pathos, sneaking in among the random vulgarity of the Griswold family’s attempt at Christmas perfection.
From a recent poll I posted on RunPee, Christmas Vacation fell behind the votes for the sweet-natured Elf, but beat out Home Alone, and tied with Love, Actually. I probably would have given this second place too before my rewatch, based on older, fonder memories of the film. It does have funny gags, but if I look at it honestly, it doesn’t come close to the better chuckles of European Vacation, or even American Vacation. And by the third go-around, I would hope the Griswolds would have learned to roll with life’s punches a bit more.
Did anyone think holding the boss hostage for a bonus check was a real hoot? I know I’m missing the point — these guys are intended to be crude and tasteless. I just don’t find that funny anymore.
I’m not trying to stomp on anyone’s memories of this as a great holiday film: it’s just my review, so feel free to ignore it. It’s not an awful movie, and there are some decent laughs in there. So I’ll give it a score of “average” (a C), and add a plus for having a dog named Snot. That made my mother laugh long and hard. I’m sure there’s something for everyone in there somewhere, and I apologize in advance for pooping on your holiday parade.
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— RunPee (movie app/film hub) (@RunPee) December 16, 2018
Movie Grade: C+
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Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)
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I had just seen this movie a couple of nights ago with my family.
Couldn’t agree more with your review. It mostly fell flat for me as well.
I appreciate the honest reviews. Authenticity is worth its weight in gold!
Jill Florio Administrator
Thank you, Brian! Sometimes I feel bad when I don’t have a glowing review to share. Everyone’s bad movie is someone’s favorite. And I really enjoyed Mortal Engines, which was badly panned. You just have to be honest if you’re in the business. 🙂
Rob Williams Administrator
I think there’s a very delicate tipping point with films that are trying to become franchises. If the first one is half way reasonable then there will be a second. The second will have to prove itself financially but they will be thinking of the long run and will throw a lot at it in terms of writing and production values. Then there comes the tipping point…the third can be good enough to give the franchise a leg up, like Goldfinger, or it can be more like the sack, brick, canal combo of the cinematic unwanted kitten, like Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines or Austin Powers In Goldmember.
Guess which way this one went!
Jill Florio Administrator
RE: Terminator. Upon a recent rewatch, T3 actually isn’t that bad. The limp follow ups make T3 better retroactively. Then, Dark Fate was…acceptable. But it cuts 3 and after from canon.
The worst franchise for me is Aliens. Alien and Aliens are outstanding suspense horror and action movies, respectively. Just icons. And then it keeps on getting more unwatchable and grim. I didn’t bother with Covenant and Prometheus — the trailers seemed to focus on gore and horrific experiences.
There’s a couple of later Vacation movies floating around. Meh, light fluff. I can only recommend National Vacation and European Vacation.