Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas with the Griswolds

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, Juliet-Louis Dryfus, Doris Roberts
Released: December 1, 1989

It isn't a real Christmas without the Griswolds! This is just one of my favorite Christmas movies and the one I chose to review for my annual holiday film. I hadn't seen it in awhile, but I remembered everything that happened since I had seen it so many times. (Thank you, NBC). I have seen all the National Lampoon movies and this one is probably my favorite, although I do love the first one, Family Vacation. I remember being disappointed the first time I saw this movie because I was expecting a cartoon. But if you were a kid and you saw opening credits like these, you would expect a cartoon too!:

Love that song. But of course the real movie is much better than any (crappily animated) cartoon could ever be and I soon came to love it. Even though it's a (at times) raunchy comedy with plenty of gross jokes (mostly thanks to Cousin Eddie) and an electrocution of a cat, there is a sweetness to it and almost has an It's a Wonderful Life vibe. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) wants to have a nice family Christmas at their home outside of Chicago and wants to make it the best Christmas ever. It's a good thing the Griswolds have a large house because joining him and his wife, Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) and their two children, Audrey (Juliette Lewis) and Rusty (Johnny Galecki), are his parents and Ellen's parents - her mother is played by a pre-Everybody Loves Raymond Doris Roberts. Of course it wouldn't be a National Lampoon movie without Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) who visits without warning in his RV with his wife, Katherine; their two children, Rocky and Ruby Sue; and their aptly-named dog, Snot. Throw in Great Aunt Bethany and Great Uncle Lewis and you have one big, happy (at times) family!

Can you guess which house belongs to the Griswolds? :-p
One of my favorite scenes and probably one of the movie's most memorable is the whole lighting of the house. Clark has covered every square inch of his home with a grand total of 25,000 twinkling white lights and when he invites the entire family outside to see the lighting of the house for the first time, nothing happens when he plugs in the cords. His family, being supportive, tells him it's still lovely even if the lights aren't turned on. The next night, after Clark has checked all the bulbs again, he attempts to try again, but still nothing happens. It's only by accident that the lights are (briefly) turned on when Clark's mother goes into the garage to retrieve something and turns on the light - turns out all they need to do to turn on the Christmas lights is to flip on that switch. All the cords plugged into that electric outlet was humorous - and looked pretty dangerous! I'm pretty sure they were breaking the fire code! Through a series of mishaps, the lights go on and off multiple times, blinding their snooty neighbors, Todd and Margo (Julia Louis-Dryfus before she was Elaine). That scene is so iconic in pop culture that Old Navy has made some cute commercials out of it including this one:

Between these commercials and the recent Old Navy ads with Beverly Hills, 90210 alums, I have to say I am proud to shop at and own clothes from Old Navy!

Another one of my favorite scenes is when Clark and Eddie takes the kids sledding and Clark has that round sled that he greased with something to make it go extra fast -which it did! That was filmed in Breckenridge, Colorado, which I thought was pretty cool since I've been to Breckenridge many times. Of course the film takes place in Chicago and as far as I know there are no mountains in Chicago, but I guess you can just pretend it's a very big hill!

Everything is going wrong for the Griswolds on Christmas Eve: the delicious-looking turkey Katherine made turns out to be completely dry; poor Aunt Bethany's cat (which she accidently put in a box and wrapped) gets electrocuted; Uncle Lewis completely burns the huge Christmas tree Clark was so proud of; the new tree Clark cuts from his yard and brings into his home has a squirrel that springs out and attacks him; Snot chases the squirrel all over the house, wrecking nearly every room in the house; and to make matters worse, the Christmas bonus Clark was expecting turns out to be a jelly-of-the-month club membership ("the gift that keeps on giving" according to Cousin Eddie) and after Clark rants about his boss and tells everybody how much he wants his boss right in front of him so he can call him a string of not-so-nice adjectives, Eddie grants him his wish which results in the police invading the Griswold household. But in the end, everyone has a nice and heartfelt Christmas.

A definite must-see for the holiday season!

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