EDITOR’S NOTE: To celebrate Christmas 2013, I’m offering a list of the only Christmas movies worth watching. I recognize that there are some movies that you may like (Elf) and I don’t (Elf). That’s just the way it is. Check out last year’s Christmas Songs That Don’t Suck.
I’ve been thinking about this since my first viewing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation of the season. Chevy Chase is a solid comedic actor, but he’s just not that funny. He does good things with good material (National Lampoon’s Vacation, Three Amigos, Community, Foul Play, SNL, Caddyshack, Fletch), but is incapable of saving anything of lesser quality: National Lampoon’s European Vacation, National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation, Funny Farm, Cops and Robbersons, and The Chevy Chase Show).
He needs good writing and a solid cast around him, which he gets in Christmas Vacation. After the disastrous casting in European Vacation, he got a worthy family to surround him in Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, Doris Roberts, E.G. Marshall and Diane Ladd (Side note: Dana Hill, who played Audrey Griswold in NLEV, died from a massive stroke in 1996. She was 32 and a lousy actress.). John Hughes was the sole writer of the screenplay, as he was for the first of the Vacation movies, and his work led to one of the greatest movie rants of all time:
There’s not much to summarize here about the plot, the movie, or its pop culture significance. How many holiday dinners have you been to where someone gives Aunt Bethany’s answer to a request to say grace?
And how many times have you used the phrase, “Shitter was full?”
Or invoked the “Bend over and I’ll show you” line?
It’s because there is a certain timelessness to this movie that may never die. Deep down inside we all believe that we have screwed up, dysfunctional families. At the end of the day, it turns out that we each have a collection of well-intentioned people who spend their time annoying us endlessly. And, we wrap ourselves in them each year at the holidays.
NLCV is not the best holiday movie ever and I think Vacation is actually the best of this series, but is the definitive modern-day contribution to Christmas films. And it’s certainly better than Elf.