National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

There’s no way that National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation should be as good as it is. By 1989, Chevy Chase had become, well, Chevy Chase and a holiday film three movies in feels like a cash-in. And yet this is a movie that my wife’s family watches every single year and now, I’ve become part of that tradition.

The first movie by director Jeremiah S. Chechik (who went on to direct Diabolique), the real joy of this movie is the script by John Hughes, based on his story Christmas ’59.

Chase and D’Angelo are back, but as always, the kids are played by different actors. This time, Audrey is Juliette Lewis and Rusty is Johnny Galecki. This probably has the smartest casting of any of the films in the series, with Clark’s parents being played by John Randolph and Diane Ladd, Ellen’s by E.G. Marshall and Doris Roberts, William Hickey and Mae Questel as the elderly and deranged Lewis and Bethany Griswold, evil neighbors the Chesters played by Julia-Louis Dreyfuss and Nicholas Guest, and most importantly, Randy Quaid and Miriam Flynn returning as Eddie and Catherine.

Eddie’s appearance surprises me every time, how he just shows up out of nowhere and then takes over the movie. Yes, in the days before he was a conspiracy driven near-insane man, Randy Quaid had incredible comic timing.

It also has the episodic story idea that works so well from the first movie as you can come into this movie at any time and enjoy it. I mean, the shopping for lingerie scene? The sled riding? Randy waving in the pool dream? There are so many moments that make me laugh just imagining them.

Director Chris Columbus started as the director, but he and Chevy Chase did not get along, so John Hughes replaced him and gave him Home Alone. That worked out, right?

It also will never fail to blow my mind that Angelo Badalamenti did the score to this.

We haven’t watched this movie since two Christmas Days ago. My father-in-law, who would shush us all and make us all watch it together no matter what, is gone and maybe it’s too hard to watch. The closing line, where Clark just says, “I did it” used to make me cry before because it’s so wonderful and perfect and sums up the end of the holidays as an adult so well. But now, in a year where I’ve lost both of the fathers in my life, it seems like it all could all be too much.

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