You serious, Clark?
There is no film that can quite capture the inner workings of a family Christmas like “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Released Dec. 1, 1989, the classic film is directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik and stars Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold. Based on a short story written by John Hughes called “Christmas ‘59,” the film follows the Griswold family as they attempt to host the perfect Christmas and make the holiday enjoyable for the whole family. Set in the 1980s, the entire film shows a familiar aesthetic that represents the “perfect” four-person family home during the holiday season.
Although there are other films that capture the Christmas spirit, “Christmas Vacation” sets the festive tone by introducing family traditions through comedy and social interactions. The dialogue and acting performances presented through the film highlight and exaggerate these traditions, allowing them to become hysterical. Decorating a Christmas tree, a holiday family dinner and dealing with the unusual family members are only a few common traditions this film twists into original humorous situations that are unique to their family. The film also introduces comical encounters at unexpected times, which paces the film pretty well for the time frame. Although it is a classic family Christmas movie, it is not entirely appropriate for younger audiences and can appear cheesy at times. The cheesy parts of the film primarily involve graphics that emphasize comedic situations.
Chase goes above and beyond in his acting performance to perfectly deliver the dialogue and capture the humor of the story. The physical and written comedy fit perfectly, like a puzzle, to create this film. Chase overemphasizes his acting through his character’s mannerisms, specifically his eye movement, and gives a great presentation of Clark Griswold’s cluelessness and forgetful personality. By embracing his character, Chase pulls the entire film together by carrying out these simple situations in a hilarious manner and adding even more spice to the dialogue through his physicality. Chase’s one-liner dialogue is solely memorable because of his delivery.
The dialogue throughout the film is not completely reliant on Chase’s character. The other characters support him by interacting with each other in unexpected ways. The film includes several different personality types that the audience can identify with and are relatable to plenty of families around this holiday season. Beverly D’ Angelo (Ellen Griswold), Johnny Galecki (Russell Griswold) and Randy Quaid (Cousin Eddie) specifically carry out fantastic acting performances that click well with Chase and make the film come full circle. They play on each other through their banter and this is what makes the film entertaining to watch.
Between the jokes, complex dialogue and interactions, common themes weave themselves throughout the film. Strengthening familial love and finding joy in the little things is what “Christmas Vacation” is all about. By the end of the film, the audience is left with exhaustion from laughter and prepared for the hap-hap-happiest of Christmases.