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Movies you view at a young age always seem to possess an innate pull, a nostalgia that weighs favour towards that innocent memory even if the film itself is less than masterful. The mark of a true classic (especially around the holiday season) is one that continues to be a delight annually, and in many cases (many cases, let me tell you) one that improves with every consecutive viewing until the point where you not only quiver with anticipation to view the film yet again, but actually refrain from watching it the rest of the eleven months just so it can be special.
Nation Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is certainly one of those films and besides the obvious classics (Rudolph, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Lifeand A Christmas Carol to name a few) A Santa Clause and Jingle All the Way join my infinitely guilty annual holiday pleasures. Having seen Chevy Chase recently in the floor-flatteningly hilarious television series Community reminds me of his talents, and consistently spins me back to the memory of how fantastic he is (year in and year out) in Christmas Vacation. This is the best of the “Vacation” films (and I have no hesitation in leaving out the copout phrase “one of”), deftly blending pitch black humour with slapstick amongst earnest family values (albeit in a twisted way).
Just in case you are some poor, pathetic individual who has not witnessed this holiday treat, let me give you a quick rundown of the plot: The Griswold family is at its antics again, this time deciding to host a family-wide festive gathering with no corner of the family’s eccentric heritage left uncovered. From a crazy aunt who wraps up her cat, to a senile toupee-wearing uncle, to the worst turkey ever baked, nothing goes right for the proud father (Chase). Despite its disastrous goofiness and the cast’s continually decaying fashion styles, Christmas Vacation manages to fall between two real-world truths: at least one of the characters in this film is a member of your family and at the same time you are gracious they all aren’t.
Every time anyone even mentions Christmas Vacation, two scenes come to mind. The first is Clark Griswold dreaming of a lingerie saleswomen seducing him in an imaginary swimming pool to the tune of Mele Kalikimaka by Bing Crosby and a small scene where Clark asks his niece not to say the phrase “shittin` bricks” to which she replies, “sorry, shittin` rocks.” Pure genius.
Nostalgia and warm fuzzies aside, this late ’80s comedy effort is a flat-out hilarious start to finish from the dopey but beautifully awkward dialogue to the set pieces ranging from anything to a case of mistaken tractor trailer to runaway super-sled. The child actors (in additional to being scarily effective considering their age and that age of cinema) are used to deliver the odd side-busting laugh without succumbing to some sort of lame foul mouthed kid stereotype. My dad, every year pesters my mom (jokingly) about when we are going to catch Christmas Vacation on TV, and for the longest time (and forever since) I never hoped he was kidding.