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Blast from the Past: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 

click to enlarge YULE CRACK ME UP! Chevy Chase stars as hapless family man Clark Griswold, who wants to spend the perfect holiday with his family but instead suffers through a comedy of errors. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WARNER BROS.
  • Photo Courtesy Of Warner Bros.
  • YULE CRACK ME UP! Chevy Chase stars as hapless family man Clark Griswold, who wants to spend the perfect holiday with his family but instead suffers through a comedy of errors.

When? 1989

What's it rated? PG-13

Where's it available? See it at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 19, at the Fremont Theater ($7 presale at eventbrite.com or $10 at the door), or on DVD/Blu-ray

Jeremiah Chechik (Benny & Joon) directs this screenplay by John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Home Alone) about the Griswold family's hilariously disastrous holiday.

A contemporary Christmas classic and the third in the National Lampoon Vacation series, it chronicles the misadventures of the Griswolds that started with National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) and National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985).

Chicago residents the Griswolds—Clark (Chevy Chase), wife Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), and their kids Audrey (Juliette Lewis) and Rusty (Johnny Galecki)—are looking forward to spending a perfect holiday with Clark and Ellen's parents, but their tranquil traditional holiday is thrown into disarray thanks to Clark's poor planning and the arrival of hillbilly cousin Eddie Johnson (Randy Quaid), his wife Catherine (Miriam Flynn), their kids Rocky (Cody Burger) and Ruby Sue (Ellen Latzen), and their rottweiler Snots.

Some of the best bits are Clark's interactions with his pretentious neighbors Todd (Nicholas Guest) and Margo Chester (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). There's also the obligatory flirting scene between Clark and a shop girl, Mary (Nicolette Scorsese), which is full of Freudian slips, sexual innuendo, and double entendre.

Chase is of course the star of the show. He plays Clark as a good-natured family man who only wants what's best for his clan, and his dogged determination regularly leads to extremes. The film's classic scene is when Clark covers his entire house in 125,000 Christmas lights, unwittingly miss-wiring them and eventually causing a citywide blackout. He's the sort of guy for whom Murphy's Law was invented, from falling off the ladder, locking himself in his attic, and being attacked by cousin Eddie's ravenous dog.

Chase is the king of pratfalls, so if you like physical comedy, you won't be disappointed. There're also some poignant moments, such as when Clark finds some old family 8mm films in the attic and relives his own youthful Christmas of 1955.

Of course everything goes catawampus, Clark completely loses his composure, and the question becomes whether he can redeem himself and find a solution. If you're familiar with the series, you already know the answer.

It's definitely not a perfect film—sappy, absurd, and ultimately ridiculous—but it's also big-hearted, fun, and family friendly. You can see it on the big screen at the Fremont Theater on Tuesday, Dec.19. (97min.) Δ

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