Thursday, December 09, 2010

Mulliga's Christmas Spectacular - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Every time December rolls around, things get festive here at Shangrila Towers. This holiday season is no different, and we're rolling out Yuletide posts all the way up to Christmas Day. Today, we’ll take a look at one of my favorite Christmas comedies:


In 1983, director Harold Ramis and writer John Hughes struck box office gold with “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” The movie paired Chevy Chase with the lovely Beverly D’Angelo (who proved to be every bit Chase’s comedic equal on-screen), and its success led to three sequels and one curious series of hotel commercials. Of that progeny, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is the only work that equals (and arguably surpasses) its parent.

The actual story of “Christmas Vacation” is pretty shallow, and nearly devoid of any spiritual or religious content. Essentially, Clark Griswold attempts to have the perfect old-fashioned family Christmas, in spite of his tendency to bungle everything he touches. The centerpiece of his plans is an expensive new swimming pool in the backyard paid for by his Christmas bonus, a quaint notion in these dark economic times.

The Clark Griswold character is well-known for slapstick comedy, and there’s plenty here (including a saucer sledding scene that had me in stitches the first time I saw it). Most of my favorite moments in the movie, though, involve Chase’s talent for mangling the English language. Whether it’s conversing with a buxom department store clerk, delivering a crazy monologue at Christmas dinner, or snidely insulting his Cousin Eddie, Chase’s wordplay imbues the Griswold family patriarch with varying levels of anger, frustration, and madness, without ever losing the audience’s sympathy.

The film opened at #2 (for some insane reason, it was released only a week after “Back to the Future: Part II” - hard to imagine something like that happening in 2010) and has deservedly become a holiday staple. So, the next time it gets “nipply” out there, pull out “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

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