Thursday, December 25, 2014

Holiday Thoughts ‘14—National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) ****

PG-13, 97 min.
Director: Jeremiah Chechik
Writer: John Hughes
Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, Randy Quaid, John Randolph, Diane Ladd, E.G. Marshall, Doris Roberts, Miriam Flynn, Cody Burger, Ellen Hamilton Latzen, William Hickey, Mae Questel, Sam MacMurray, Nicholas Guest, Julia Louise-Dreyfus, Nicolette Scorsese, Keith MacKechnie, Brian Doyle-Murray, Natalia Nogulich

So, when you’ve been watching a movie once a year for almost thirty years, it’s easy to forget what originally spoke to you about it. With a movie like “Christmas Vacation”, which plays upon the universal truths of what gets under our skins about the holidays, it evolves with the ages. What makes me laugh today probably didn’t when I was 18, and the things that had me holding my gut then, may only stir a chuckle today.

My oldest children saw it for the first time this year. Most of it went over my middle boy’s head. He’s more of a sight gag and fart joke man. He’s never been so good with observational humor. My oldest boy’s reaction was interesting, however. He’s just entering his adolescence, and it was definitely the more juvenile fantasies of Clark’s that struck closest to home with him. He was cracking up during the swimming pool sequence.

Now the details about being adults in a family or the work comedy of Clark’s didn’t really make much of an impression of him. I think he liked the sequences with the neighbors quite a bit. And of course, there’s all the jokes involving swearing. We’re pretty protective of our kids when it comes to movies, but I’m under no illusion that they’ve never heard such language before.

“Christmas Vacation” is a great example of how effective language can be in comedy. It’s efficient. Screenwriter John Hughes doesn’t just throw away a curse. When his script swears, it’s sharp, has purpose and is delivered with expert timing by Chevy Chase. Plus, the Danny Kaye line will go down as one of the classic lines in all of comedy. 

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