December 2, 2009
Why Don’t You Bend Over and I’ll Show Ya
This holiday season, it was my original intention to put together a “master list” of my top 10 (perhaps even 20) favorite Christmas movies for all of the loyal flowersflix.com readers. As it appears that the obligations of my day job are going to prohibit me from reviewing each of these in the amount of detail that I would’ve liked, I decided that I had to at least try to squeeze in one yuletide classic. Narrowing it down to one wasn’t as easy as I thought it’d be. Scrooged came to mind, as did A Christmas Story and a multitude of others. There’s one, however, that stands out from all the rest. If you’ve spent any time channel surfing during prime-time the past week, you’ve likely stumbled across a movie on AMC that I believe has stood the test of time as a beacon of hilarity and middle-class Christmas chaos. That’s right—it’s none other than the one, the only, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
I’ve literally watched this every year since it’s release in 1989. As I’ve matured, I’ve come to understand a lot of the otherwise subtle, more adult humor that casual moviegoers might not pick up on (all of which is perfectly delivered by a cast that appears to have mastered the art of the comic delivery).
However—and it pains me to say this—I don’t think Christmas Vacation is perfect.
I’ll probably get berated from just about everyone who holds this as the mecca of family Christmas comedies after I make this most heinous of declarations, but, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to the determination that some of the slapstick comedy contained in this Chevy Chase vehicle—and this really is Chevy at the top of his game—a little too over-the-top. I know, I know: that’s the point. It’s a ridiculous comedy, and as such it’s allowed a little room to roll around in the snow, flail its arms, and engage in what can only be described as Three Stooges style mayhem. But the movie works best when Clark Griswold is given a chance to wax poetic about his pompous neighbors, sexy lingerie saleswomen, and his incorrigible boss, Mr. Shirley. Don’t get me wrong—the physical comedy employed here is classic in it’s own right, and I can’t think of many other gags that are better than Clark clumsily sliding down his extension ladder or running in terror from a squirrel. When he succumbs to attic doors and repeatedly steps on loose planks, though, I think the comic wizardry that’s on display looses just a smidgeon of its otherwise spotless luster.
But these are very minor complaints. Really, there’s a lot going on beneath the surface of Christmas Vacation that a lot of people tend to ignore become of the classic one-liners. Clark is clearly a man whose sole purpose in life is to be the ideal family man. Of course, in order to achieve this goal (in his own good-hearted way) he goes completely overboard with every project he tackles, be it hanging 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights or finding the perfect Christmas tree. There seems to be a lot of Freudian/Peter-Pan complex-related stuff rippling just below the surface of his character, but that, of course, is beside the point. This flick was made for one purpose, and one purpose only: to make you laugh.
And in that aim, it succeeds with flying colors. The slapstick absurdity on display might start to wear thin for some viewers, but there’s no denying that Christmas Vacation—which is now 20 years old—is a holiday classic that showcases the talents of a master comedian.
out of 5
Check out a scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: