National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION wreaks holiday havoc as the third of four trips with the ‘Griswold’ family. Unlike the first two installments they don’t go anywhere: in this 1989 entry, trying in vain to enjoy Santa-time, they are vacationed-upon by a three-pack of obnoxious visiting relatives. Mayhem ensues, some falling flat, but much of it funnier than it has a right to be, especially if you’re in a goofy mood. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo return as parents ‘Clark’ and ‘Ellen’, with their kids ‘Audrey’ and ‘Russ’ now played by Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki.

Accident-prone but positive-thinking Clark goes all-out, securing a massive tree, decorating the house with enough lights to short-out a town, hoping everyone will share his yule spirit.  Ellen holds her breath. Clark’s supportive parents are done by John Randolph and Diane Ladd, Ellen’s grumpier folks handled by E.G. Marshall and Doris Roberts. Returning from the first in the series are Randy Quaid and Miriam Flynn as white trash cousins ‘Eddie’ and ‘Cathrine’, with two feral kids in two, plus ‘Snots’, their Rottweiler.

Gags in abundance, hit & miss, but the cast is engaging. Written by John Hughes, who self-purloined it from “Christmas ’59”, a short story he wrote for National Lampoon Magazine nine years earlier. Jeremiah S. Chechik (Benny & Joon) directed. Cost: $25,000,000. Gross: $71,300,000, 15th place in a year packed with good comedies. It’s become a season standard.

This time the requisite dream girl Clark innocently moons over is embodied (word chosen to suit) by the drop-dead Nicolette Scorsese (no relation to Marty). The husband-and-wife team of Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil wrote the song “Christmas Vacation”, belted by Mavis Staples.

97 minutes, with added fun from Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Nicholas Guest, William Hickey, Brian Doyle-Murray, Ellen Hamilton Latzen (‘Ruby Sue’) Sam McMurray, Mae Questel, Natalia Nogulich, Cody Burger (‘Rocky’). Shot in Colorado and California.

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