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DVD REVIEW

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - Special Edition  (1989)

 

Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid

Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik

Rating: PG-13

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Release Date: October 7, 2003
Review posted: October 20, 2003

Spoilers: None

 

Reviewed by Dennis Landmann

 

"Oh, Eddie, I couldn't be any more surprised if I woke up in the morning with my head sewn to the carpet." - Clark Griswold

 

Synopsis

 

Instead of vacationing for the Christmas Holidays, Clark Griswold promises his family "the most fun-filled family Christmas ever." They stay in their Chicago suburb home to welcome their relatives and enjoy the season, but when cousin Eddie shows up with wife and kids in a dirty motor home and other complications occur, Christmas seems more likely to go down as one of the worst.

 

Critique

 

John Hughes returns to the Vacation films as writer and producer of Christmas Vacation, the third in the series. The idea of staying home this time around, after a cross country "holiday roooaad" and a European vacation, is not very compelling and doesn't quite lend itself to the outrageous situations usually experienced while on a vacation. Hughes' script includes a few funny moments, such as Clark readying a presentation of the 25,000 Christmas lights around the house, Clark locked inside the attic watching old home videos, and the squirrel in the tree. A few more exist, but the overall film is just not very funny. I think Christmas Vacation is aware of its silly nature and dumbness, but there's no payoff or way to work around it to make it funny.

 

Despite a lack of comedy in the script, Chevy Chase manages to pull a few chuckles out of me. However, I think this is possibly the last time he was actually funny in a film. So at least it's good to see Chase at almost the top of his game. In fact, the script appears to focus much more on him than anyone else in the story, which throws off the balance of things. Yes, Beverly D'Angelo still looks good but she doesn't have a lot of to work with here. On the other hand, Randy Quaid makes a genuine impression as visiting cousin Eddie simply because he is the everyday underachiever (or poor lazy man) and is so unaware of the fact that he's unwelcome. The Griswold kids here are played by Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki to good measure, but they don't carry the looks of innocence as Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron in the original Vacation.

 

Some of the comedy in Christmas Vacation is also quite tame and therefore relegated to PG-13 type of material, which includes but is not necessarily limited to physical comedy. That's fine when it works for effect, but much of the comedy is flat, which I have already mentioned in at least two ways. I don't think Christmas Vacation is a disaster, instead it's mostly a typical and borderline average comedy. For some that might suffice, but I think comedy should at least be good funny and not kind-of funny.

 

The Video

 

Warner Bros. presents National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. As one might imagine the colors include those of bright lights, white snow, and blue skies, as well as the warm feeling inside the Griswold home. The print image looks fine except for some grain in various areas in the film. Despite bits of added softness, the picture looks crisp and detailed. The problems are minor and don't distract. Overall this is a nice presentation befitting of the material.

 

The Audio

 

Warner Bros. presents National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation in English 2.0 Dolby Surround Sound. The presentation is fairly accurate with clear dialog and a remotely good design of sound effects. I was surprised to find out Angelo Badalamenti composed the score for this film. I think it fits the film's spirit nicely. The front speakers get all of the attention here as one can expect from a 2.0 track. It's a fairly nice presentation overall.

 

A French dub track is also available.

 

The Extras

 

The only supplement is an audio commentary with actors Randy Quaid, Beverly D'Angelo, Johnny Galecki, Miriam Flynn, director Jeremiah S. Chechik, and producer Matty Simmons. The track is scattered with talk and gaps of silence, yet most of the talk is not very interesting. Oh, the film's Theatrical Trailer is also available. But that's it. This DVD is really not worth of a special edition banner. At least a making-of featurette should have been included to make this disc at least somewhat "special," because the commentary alone didn't do the job.

 

You can select to view the film with optional English, French and Spanish subtitles. The 97-minute feature is organized into twenty-nine chapters.

 

Overall

 

Christmas Vacation has its moments, but they're sparse. Some of the comedy works, but most of it is either so-so or below that. Chevy Chase and Randy Quaid are still funny, but overall the film lacks punch. Video/audio is nice and the special "extra" disappoints. Fans of the series might be interested in a purchase, but I'd recommend a rental at most.

 

RATINGS SUMMARY

 

THE MOVIE 5
THE VIDEO 6

THE AUDIO

6

THE EXTRAS

4

OVERALL (not an average)

5

 

VERDICT: RENT IT

 


 

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