The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is considered a Christmas classic to many film buffs. I vaguely remember watching it back in the day and even a few years ago. Of course, everyone knows about Cousin Eddie and his antics, as people usually love to dress up like the character along with Clark Griswold. However, watching the film in 2022, I have to say, it’s just not funny. The late, great Gene Siskel used to call these types of films, “A comedy without laughs.” If your one goal is to make the audience laugh and you fail at that task, your comedy is dead on arrival. However, I understand comedy is subjective, so what I find unfunny might be hilarious to someone else out there.
Christmas is right around the corner, and Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is doing anything and everything in his power to make sure it is absolutely perfect without any flaws. He’s not afraid to go all out on presents, finding the perfect tree, and, of course, twinkling lights. At first, he thinks he will be spending it with his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and their two children Rusty and Audrey (Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis) along with some in-laws. However, he did not plan on the appearance of the crude Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and his camper, which comes ripe with fecal matter and doesn’t exactly look great outside the Griswold home.
I can’t say there is much of a plot to “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” It is simply Chevy Chase doing bad slapstick for a little over ninety-minutes with odd facial reactions as he stumbles and bumbles through situations with family and co-workers. I didn’t find him very relatable or interesting. He’s a sarcastic personality, but he doesn’t come across as a likable goof. He’s mostly an obsessive-compulsive personality that is putting too much emphasis on lights, a Christmas tree, and getting a Christmas bonus to install a pool. He seems more concerned with making everything just right instead of spending actual time with his family. When I was watching the film, I thought to myself, “Why is he making such a fuss?” He’s making a fuss, so we can watch him fail over and over again in what is supposed to be comedic fashion, but the laughs were few and far between.
The film has a great supporting cast: Doris Roberts, Diane Ladd, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Sam McMurray, to name a few. The problem is the characters are not fleshed out well enough. You have your standard in-laws without much to say or do except act like goofy cartoons. I found the film to be very hokey and one-dimensional. A really good Christmas movie needs to be funny or heartfelt, or even both, and this one is neither. The Clark Griswold character is annoying, the in-laws are irritating, and Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) isn’t given anything to do except play the exasperated wife. The children are just there to be annoyed as well. I felt as though they had the ingredients, the actors, and the idea for a funny movie here, but they didn’t have a story to go along with it.
Let’s look at it this way—who can’t relate to the holidays and family drama? Most people love the holidays, myself included, but they know they can come with certain baggage and drama either from your own family or from in-laws. It’s a highly relatable concept. There is material here for a funny comedy about dealing with the stress of Christmas and all of the various personalities interacting with one another. However, too often, the film relies on Clark falling down, getting hurt, or making bizarre facial reactions as he does slapstick comedy. For me, personally, this film was not a funny or enjoyable experience. It was quite tedious. I know I’m probably in the minority on this one based on the popularity of this film over the past thirty plus years.
* ½ out of * * * *
4K/Blu-ray Info: “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. The film is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 97 minutes. It comes with a digital copy of the film as well.
4K Info: The HDR is strong on this film here. This is a very vivid, clear, and vibrant picture. They cleaned up a lot to make this film look full of life on 4K. It’s a great looking transfer.
Audio Info: The film comes on the following audio formats: DTS-HD MA: English 5.1, English Stereo, and Dolby Digital: French and Spanish. Subtitles are included in English, Spanish, and French. The audio is on-point from start to finish.
Audio Commentary featuring Director Jeremiah S. Chechik, Randy Quaid, Beverly D’Angelo, Johnny Galecki, Miriam Flynn, and producer Matty Simmons.
Should You Buy It?
I think you knew before reading this review how you felt about the film itself, so you are probably looking for information on the visuals and the audio of the film along with the special features. Sadly, there is only one real special feature here, and it is a commentary track that has been used on other releases of this film. I’d say the audio and video are 3 out of 4 stars. I really enjoyed looking at the wintery images of the snow and outdoor scenes, the faces look a lot cleaner, and the overall picture is quite beautiful to look at on 4K HDR. It’s a big upgrade over the grainy Blu-Ray release. If you are a fan of the film, you will be very happy with how the film looks and sounds on 4K. The audio is consistent throughout and not too loud. It can stay on the same volume throughout the film. If you want to own this film on the best possible format, this is the way to go. It’s a quality release. If you are like me and not a fan of the film at all and don’t find it funny, you can safely pass on this release. This comes down to a matter of comedic taste, which is subjective.
**Disclaimer** I received a copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free. The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.