Not to stress the obvious, but most people â ???? well, most Boomers, of which I am one (a late Boomer, I insist!) ???? I understand that “objectionable” is part of the National Lampoon Mark. Understanding is a pretext, or an excuse, or whatever, to stand still in the face of the objection of films with that rubric in their titles.
An indirect spin-off of the humor magazine Ivy League Harvard Lampoon, NatLamp was the newspaper that ran the infamous “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We Will Kill This Dog” front page in 1973. National Lampoon Animal House set a standard, so to speak, for rude behavior and rude humor in youth-oriented movies. (Unlike Revenge of the nerds, another from The Problematics quite explicitly inspired by Animal house, did not tolerate rape).
So the most shocking thing I discovered upon revisiting National Lampoon Christmas Vacation, released 22 years ago this month, is how relatively, well, toothless it is.
This was, now that I think about it, probably an organic development. While the first installment of the Holidays series, predictably titled National Lampoon Vacation (1983) had an R rating, the follow-up, 1985â ????? s European holidays, opted for PG-13 because PG-13 was the way the studios wanted their family comedies. And as a holiday movie, producers were no doubt looking for a viewability quotient. Although Capra’s It’s a wonderful life It was a box office bomb, its resurrection on television ushered in the idea of the perennial cinematic Christmas. And, like the 1993 slightly spicy but sweet A christmas story that’s the state of the producers of Christmas holidays certainly dear.
So for much of its running time, the film’s goofy humor, centered around the various forms of disorientation manifested by hapless Chevy Chase patriarch Clark Griswold, is confusing and heavy. However, from the beginning, the film is advertised as “nothing but the best.” type of studio production. R&B and gospel great Mavis Staples sings the title track, written by Brill Building hitmakers Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. (They wrote “On Broadway!” his National Lampoon piece, â ???? Vacationâ ???? 58, â ???? was the basis of Holidays, and in 1987 he wrote and directed Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a quintessential Christmas movie in its own right. The four-star cast included EG Marshall, Diane Ladd, Doris Roberts, and John Randolph as the first in-laws.
The film’s opening scenes reestablish Clark’s almost psychotic insistence that his family is not completely, or at least relatively, dysfunctional, as he leads the clan into a wooded area to cut down the Griswold family. Christmas tree. Along the way they get into automatic antics with Southerners (there’s a bit of this in Planes, Trains too) and then Griswold’s ever-rotating daughter, here played by Juliette Lewis, freezes.
The overgrown tree the family brings home catches the attention of Griswold’s snooty quasi-yuppie neighbors, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld was in its first season) and Nicholas Guest (yes, Christopher’s brother, and best seen with Christopher in the 1980 West The long riders). These characters don’t actually do anything evil except express extreme dislike for the family next door, and yet one of them will be forced to endure a squirrel attack at the end of the film. The well-deserved, barely motivated punishment reflects a certain indifference in the creative process ”. checking the box, I think they call it today.
Along the same lines, when Clark goes Christmas shopping, trying to find something nice and pure for Mrs. Griswold from Bev Dâ ???? Angelo, Christmas holidays repeat the homina-homina Christie Brinkley stuff. This time with a brunette. The department store sales rep Merry (or maybe Mary?), Played by Nicolette Scorsese (absolutely no relation), low-cut and somewhat high-rise, leads Clark into distraction and soon draws Rusty’s attention. . Rusty is played here by a very fresh-faced Johnny Galecki, and this scene must have been good practice for the â ???? Holy moly! A GIRL ???? faces that he would be forced to make through much of Big Bang Theory. Later, when Clark fantasizes about the pool he will grant the family once he gets his long-awaited bonus (and guess what the plot twist might be), Mary (or maybe it’s …? S Merry?) Reappears in a variant of Phoebe Cates’s pool business in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. This is pro forma and a bit strange. Clark is here more firmly established as the last family man and by extension a wife type, yet his adolescent arousal still knows no bounds at this late date in his development.
Still, there is nothing to worry too much about. Forty-two minutes later, Randy Quaid’s cousin Eddie shows up with his wife, two children, and an RV. Things are about to get really classified!
Well, a little range â ???? I can’t REALLY say. Little Ruby Sue used to have her eyes crossed, after falling into a well, but then a mule kicked her and that uncrossed them. There is a dog named Snots that Eddie appreciates because of his unusually large genitalia. Eddie’s son is ready to work at the carnival when he grows up. And so. Calling these jokes “class” is like giving them too much credit.
This is so when the really old relatives appear, an uncle and an aunt played by William Hickey and Mae Questel. Hickey makes an inexpensive retweet of his 1985 performance as an indolent gift in 1985 Prizzi’s honor. Questel, who once voiced the lovable cartoon sex bomb Betty Boop, remains lovable as he goes through some pranks for the hard of hearing, followed by some pranks played on the hilarious kind of dementia.
When a cat appears in a box, you know that it is doomed; When Clark pulls out the carving knife, you don’t necessarily know the turkey is going to explode, but you don’t kick yourself for not predicting it. After all the mishaps with the Christmas tree, the Christmas lights, the Christmas turkey, and the Christmas relatives, the family’s fortunes take an unexpected turn, and while Clark may not end up as the luckiest man in town. Bedford Falls, your family will probably get that pool. And that is all friends.
Veteran critic Glenn Kenny comments on… new releases on RogerEbert.com, the New York Times and, as befits someone of his old age, AARP magazine. He blogs, very occasionally, in Some came running and tweets, mostly in jest, on @glenn__kenny. He is the author of the acclaimed 2020 book. Made Men: The Goodfellas Story, published by Hanover Square Press.