The Set of 400: #119 – My Favorite Attic Home Movies

Today! Because I don’t know what to say, except it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery –

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Directed by Jeremiah Chechik

Starring Chevy Chase (x3), Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid (x3), Juliette Lewis (x3), Johnny Galecki, Diane Ladd, E.G. Marshall (x3), Doris Roberts, John Randolph, William Hickey (x3), Mae Questel, Miriam Flynn, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (x2), Nicholas Guest, Brian Doyle-Murray (x4), Sam McMurray, Alexander Folk, Cody Burger, Ellen Latzen, Nicolette Scorsese

The funniest Christmas movie ever made, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation also falls into that oft-mentioned scenario where I think of its predecessors as being prequels. In other cases like this, it usually plays out that the sequel is so vastly superior to the original movie that I can’t help but think of the films this way. Here though, the issue is more that I’ve seen (and I actively see) Christmas Vacation way more than Vacation or European Vacation. The original Vacation is still a really funny movie, and without it some little bits in Christmas probably wouldn’t work as well – some, like the car getting such major air, are straight retread jokes – but I’m going to estimate that I’ve seen Christmas Vacation three or four dozen times in my life, whereas I’ve probably sat and watched Vacation once in the last two decades.

It also has one of the most perfect last lines in movie history

Even without the Christmas routine of the viewing, though, Christmas is the best of the Vacations, even though it only features Johnny Galecki as Rusty, as opposed to Vegas Vacation’s Ethan Embry – the correct casting choice for all situations (big Can’t Hardly Wait fan!). The escalating disaster that the holiday becomes, especially across the third act of the movie, is so well paced and so well played by the huge cast that the laughs are relentless. Even if you don’t care for everyone’s pointless fear of the squirrel, you have to enjoy the dog chase destroying the house, right? But if that’s too much for you, the parallel approach of Margo to the house to confront Clark, only to get decimated by the end of the squirrel/dog chase pays off, doesn’t it? And if not, her punching Todd certainly caps the sequence. In some way, the entire movie unfolds like this, creating a sort of undeniably enjoyable classic, where the gags compound on each other and the swiftly resolving side plots only add to the total comic lunacy.

Zing!

But really, what else is even in the running for Funniest Christmas Movie? Elf, certainly, which I feel was a big miss omitting from this list. Bad Santa is still hilarious. Some parts of Love Actually are really funny, but overall that thing is barely a comedy. Scrooged, sure. A Christmas Story is probably funny if you haven’t seen it a million times. Home Alone? Office Christmas Party? The Santa ClauseBe honest, none of them are as consistently solid as Christmas Vacation, and few hold up over repeated viewings. At the same time, my favorite Christmas movie related joke (Which I think was on Conan once maybe? I’ve had a hard time figuring out where I ever heard this) is “If you give a man a jingle, he will jingle for a day. If you teach a man to jingle, he will Jingle All the Way!” Speak up, audience – someone knows where this came from.

No awards whatsoever! Even though this movie features the Best SWAT Team Christmas of all time?! For shame! Loads of new Three-Timers today, but only one person advancing beyond that, so they get the spotlight! Boss Frank Shirley himself Brian Doyle-Murray joins the Fours, after #227 Scrooged, #357 JFK, and #185 Multiplicity!

“You ready to do some kissing?”

Coming Monday! I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself –

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