Review: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is more family-friendly than the other Vacation films, but no less cutting in its humour.

It might be a Vacation film, but the Griswolds stay at home for this movie, when they invite the entire family round for the Christmas holidays. Of course, not everything goes to plan… well, nothing goes to plan. This is the most family-friendly installment in the National Lampoon’s Vacation series, but only comparatively so – there’s still some fruity language, but much less nudity and crudity than can be found in the others.

You’d think that would mean an inevitable softening of the hard-edged humour of the original but no – while the film manages to maintain all the usual tropes of a “Christmas movie”, it still retains its cynical outlook. While all these movies provide a happy ending of sorts, it always comes at a price. Clark puts on a memorable Christmas, but at what cost?

By this stage Ellen, Clark’s wife and Griswold matriarch, has been reduced to nothing more than an occasional one-line merchant, there to be the straight man to a few of Clark’s mishaps or gags. Cousin Eddie returns with another dog in tow, with humorous results. The Griswold children also return, with Audrey being played by a young Juliette Lewis, in what is the best Audrey performance so far. Making Rusty younger than Audrey for this film only is a strange move, but it works. A few jokes and nods to the changing cast ease the transition, and the strong performances help.

It just got better and better, building towards a bizarre ending that really topped the film off perfectly. The Blu-ray transfer is impressive, and the cast commentary is definitely a worthwhile listen.

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