National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
For the past couple of years, I've tried to watch a Christmas classic that I hadn't seen before. This year, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation was on my watch list. I had heard about this movie a lot, and to be honest, I don't ever want to hear about this movie again.
From the first scene, I knew the movie was in trouble. The film opens up with an innocent family roadtrip to find a live Christmas tree to put in their living room. Seems good natured enough, until a truck driver ticks off the dad, and road rage ensues, causing car stunts that would make Fast & the Furious proud. Now, I know the scene was meant to be comedic, exaggerating road rage to the extreme, but the execution left me silent. Perhaps it was the editing or the writing or the shots or a combination of all of them, but by the end of the scene, I was not laughing. I was cringing. And this was, unfortunately, my experience throughout the movie. There were possibly two jokes that got a chuckle out of me. I remember one said by a little girl, who I think gave the best performance, but she was in a scene for maybe five minutes. Just for the record: I do enjoy Christmas comedies. The Santa Clause, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Home Alone--I thoroughly enjoy humorous holiday movies. I did not enjoy this one. It does have a solid premise: outlandish and silly antics ensue as a dad tries to put together an ideal Christmas, and literally everything goes wrong. I was looking forward to seeing this play out. However, my "Christmas bonus" each year from now on is to find better movies to watch than this.
The story (more like a series of skits) revolves around Clark Griswold as he tries to give his family the best Christmas ever. In fact, he’s planning on getting a pool with the Christmas bonus that he anticipates will come. To be honest, I wasn’t really rooting for the guy to accomplish his mission. From the get-go, we see him put his family in mortal danger, and throughout the film, he almost commits adultery, almost kills his neighbors, and ruins the house because he must absolutely without question get his ideal Christmas no matter what. He’s just not a likable guy, but hey, he’s getting a pool for his family, so I guess that’s something. I never felt like he was a character worth being invested in or even caring about. If I don’t care about the character, then I really don’t care about what’s happening around him. I don’t think it’s because of the style of the movie either. A similar movie that comes to mind is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It, too, is a series of skits with barely a story holding it together until the end, yet I found myself looking forward to every forthcoming scene, excited to see what shenanigans the knights would get themselves in. Here, I didn’t care, and about halfway through, I was ready to turn it off and watch something else. Heck, the antagonist of the movie has more of an emotional journey than Clark, and his “journey” lasts a whole 60 seconds! It felt like there wasn’t a point at all to the goofy antics, and if the movie doesn’t have a point–even to make some kind of comedic look on life and its ridiculousness–then there’s not a point in caring.
I suppose one shining light in this jumbled mess is the acting. It seems as though the actors are having fun on set, especially Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Nicholas Guest, who play the neighbors. They are ecstatic with their acting, even when the script has nary a pun or joke for them to say. They were definitely the highlights aside from the child actors. Again, one little girl had the best delivery out of everybody. However, a lot of the other actors seemed rather bored or confused by the scenes they were in. I know if I was them I would be questioning whether or not I was starring in a comedy as the lines were being delivered, and I got that impression a time or two.
It sort of bothers me that a movie like this is worthy of being featured in Christmas shows and events. I even asked around to see the consensus on other people’s views on this “classic,” because I felt like I missed something, but to my surprise, everyone I asked that had seen it didn’t like it either. So don’t just take my word for it; spend your hard earned holiday time on something that will bring you much more joy.
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