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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 12/23/00

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
1989 (1997) - Warner Bros.

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Film Rating: C

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C-/C/C-

Specs and Features

97 mins, PG-13, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Snapper case packaging, theatrical trailers, production notes, cast and crew filmographies, film-themed menu screens, scene access (29 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), French and Spanish (DD 1.0) subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Remember the gold old days when Chevy Chase was actually funny? He had some classic moments on Saturday Night Live, and he took a few memorable turns in Caddyshack and Neil Simon's Seems Like Old Times. Even the first National Lampoon's Vacation movie was pretty dang funny. This one, however, is just DOA. I mean, I just didn't find it funny in the least. Okay - to be fair I should say that there WERE funny moments, but there weren't enough of them to make the movie worth viewing.

We all know the Griswold family by now. There's Clark (Chevy Chase), Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) and their two children that don't seem to age, Rusty (Johnny Galecki) and Audrey (Juliette Lewis). This time around, there's no road trip to bring mayhem into their lives. They've decided instead to spend their Christmas holiday at home and invite their extended family for some additional antics. Some of the sequences in the film are funny. I chuckled while Clark was trying to put up the nuclear-powered Christmas lights and during the attack squirrel sequence. And Randy Quaid is always good for a laugh or two as Cousin Eddie. But more often than not, the jokes were just retreads from previous films or they just weren't funny.

The problem with this go-around with the Griswolds, is that the characters and their antics seem all too familiar and predictable. They were funny the first two times, because we didn't know the characters all that well. Now, we know what to expect - we know Clark is going to lose his temper and fall many, many times, we know somebody's going to get electrocuted and we know that Audrey is going to be a vacant air head. The strange thing, is that the same scriptwriter of the other Vacation films, John Hughes, wrote this one. He's written a lot of great films before this one (Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club). But this Vacation was a dull, lifeless trip. You know you're in trouble, when you're half way through the movie and you want to watch the credit sequence again.

As blasé as the movie is, it's rivaled only by an even less impressive DVD presentation. The picture is a VHS quality pan and scan hack job, that leaves a LOT to be desired. The print used for the transfer is dirty and exhibits a noticeable amount of grain. Color detail is scant and produces many shots that look blurry or overly soft, and there's a more than enough artifacting to create a major distraction. The audio is a little better, but it's still nothing to write home about. The English Dolby Surround track has its moments of activity (most notably during the sledding scene), but otherwise it just gets the job done. Dialogue is stable and maintained in the center speaker, and surround usage is almost completely devoted to the music track. Mono tracks in French and Spanish are also included.

There's a small handful of extras on the disc, but there's really nothing that exciting. Not only do you get the trailer for this film, but you'll also find trailers for the other Vacation films (Vacation, European Vacation and Vegas Vacation). There's also a small set of production notes on the film and a rather lengthy series of filmographies on the cast and crew of the film.

Christmas Vacation isn't as funny as the first two films in the series, but if you judge it by it's $70+ million box-office take, it does have an audience. That audience will undoubtedly be displeased with this DVD. Even if you like the movie, I can't really recommend this disc (unless you can find it for a bargain-basement price). It's one of Warner's early format crossover discs, and it's pretty bad. If you want a better National Lampoon's film, rent the first Vacation instead.

Dan Kelly
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