The very hysterical National Lampoon’s Xmas Vacation arrived on 4K Ultra HD last week and the comedy has never looked or sounded better.
I’ve watched this film a number of times over the years, both before and after becoming a film critic. And yet, I’ve never formally written about the film until now. It just so happens that the National Lampoon’s Vacation sequel is finally available to buy on 4K UHD. I own the first four films in a DVD box set so this is my first opportunity to watch any of the films on 4K or Blu-ray. This time around, the Griswold family is celebrating Xmas with the extended family. Not surprisingly, a lot of chaos ensues. While the film keeps Vacation in its title, it’s not really a vacation for the family. They aren’t going to Wally’s World or Europe. Instead, they’re staying put in their Chicago area home, for better or worse.
For the first time in the franchise, “Holiday Road” does not show up at any point while watching the film. Instead, the new theme is “Xmas Vacation,” performed by Mavis Staples and written by Barry Man and Cynthia Weil. It’s a different approach to this film but the tune has become memorable over the years as the film has grown into a classic.
The comedy hijinks start almost immediately with the purchase of the biggest tree they could find. Naturally, they have to uproot it because they do not have the tools to cut it. After the family arrives, Clark (Chevy Chase) and Rusty (Johnny Galecki) work to put up some 25,000 lights on their house. These are a lot of lights but they pay off in the end, much to the dismay of the Griswolds’ neighbors. I’ll have more on them in a few. Anyway, attempt one is an epic fail but attempt two finally works–after Clark and Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) get the wiring figured out. Word to the wise, do not have a gazillion plugs in the outlet next to the light switch in the garage.
When cousins Eddie (Randy Quaid) and Catherine (Miriam Flynn) stop by, it means there’s going to be some more comedy. They’re not as well off as the Griswold family and it does feel like they are some jokes at their expense. A lot of these come from Eddie so it’s like the film is giving its audience their permission to laugh. By the end of the film, Eddie will play a part in saving the day when he kidnaps Clark’s boss, Frank Shirley (Brian Doyle Murray). Instead of giving employees a holiday bonus, they get enrolled in the jelly of the month club. How rude can someone be?!? Both Frank’s wife and the cops appropriately give him a scolding. The holiday bonus becomes one of the film’s biggest plot points and drives some emotional moments and speeches.
Near the end of the film, Eddie’s kids think they see Santa. Clark says it’s the Xmas Star. Uncle Lewis (William Hickey) says it’s the sewage treatment plant. We’re in for another round of laughs because Lewis lights his cigar and sets off an explosion. Santa’s sleigh goes flying and Clark’s aunt Bethany (Mae Questel) starts singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Everyone joins in even though there’s not a U.S. flag anywhere in sight.
Jeremiah S. Chechik takes over the director’s chair and delivers the best of the sequels in the franchise. The hysterics alone are a reason why this film is the most rewatchable in the franchise. Put it this way, this sequel has the most viewings over here out of all of them. When I watch Vacation, I tend to put this one on immediately after. Plus, it is almost always on TV during November and December. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Vegas Vacation–because I do–but this is the last of the sequels to feature the writing of John Hughes. That the film has a PG-13 rating is what helps make it fun for the whole family. Obviously, there’s at least one F-bomb but the film remains a solid piece of entertainment.
Thomas Ackerman’s cinematography looks as good as it gets for a film shot on 35mm. They’ve done what they can with the remastering through the years for previous Blu-ray appearances. I’ve watched the DVD through the years in a DVD player, Blu-ray player, and 4K player. Let me tell you that the film has never looked better than it does on 4K UHD. Unfortunately, the bonus features have not improved on previously releases. This release only includes an audio commentary and theatrical trailer.
Outside of the core cast, the film makes the best use of both Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Nicholas Guest. They portray the Griswold family neighbors, Margo and Todd Chester. Suffice it to say, they’re having none of Clark lighting up the house with the brightest bulbs. It all comes to a head while the Griswolds reach the threshold of hell. Margo is having none of it and approaches the door, only to find a squirrel and dog jumping at her. Mind you, this film was released not too long after the premiere of Seinfeld. She isn’t a main character but she makes the best of her little screen time.
National Lampoon’s Xmas Vacation is a holiday classic and provides a lot of laughs.
- Audio commentary by Randy Quaid, Beverly D’Angelo, Johnny Galecki, Miriam Flynn, Director Jeremiah Cherchik, and Producer Matty Simmons
- Theatrical Trailer
DIRECTOR: Jeremiah S. Chechik
SCREENWRITERS: John Hughes and Tom Jacobson
CAST: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid, Miriam Flynn, William Hickey, Mae Questel, Diane Ladd, John Randolph, E.G. Marshall, Doris Roberts, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki
Warner Bros. released National Lampoon’s Xmas Vacation in theaters on December 1, 1989. Grade: 4/5
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