There have been four Vacation movies, and I would say none of them suck. I even like elements of Vegas Vacation. There’s no denying each one gets progressively worse though. Christmas Vacation is no exception, as it’s third in the series, and in my opinion the third best Vacation movie. This one also feels the most distant, as the Griswolds don’t actually go on vacation – people come to them for Christmas. We don’t even get a playing of “Holiday Road!” WTF! This entry is also the most problematic in terms of continuity. Wait, the kids are younger, and now Audrey is the older sister? We might need a J.J. Abrams Star Trek time travel reboot on this one. Aside from continuity shenanigans, while this sequel is flawed, and at times simply not funny, it has the Christmas charm that is undeniable.
The movie starts off horribly. There’s this elaborate car chase sequence that is embarrassingly not funny. Not a good way to start. As the film goes on though, it gets progressively better, especially when good ole Randy Quaid comes into the mix as Cousin Eddie. The way he shows up is pretty funny. We also get Elaine from Seinfeld (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) as a jackass neighbor running around, and a barrage of moderately humorous old people. Johnny Galecki plays Rusty Griswold in a throwaway performance, and while Juliette Lewis went on to have a solid career, she is absolutely horrendous in this movie. Wow. The writing of John Hughes doesn’t help, but boy is this character annoying as the most clichéd teenage daughter you can imagine.
The highlights are the old staples in the franchise, Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as Clark and Ellen Griswold respectively. What I don’t like are all the physical gags they give Chase. His strength is always in dialogue. We get plenty of that though, including some great rants. The movie really hits its stride in the last half hour when Clark goes full on Clark, and something really bad happens to a cat that always leaves me in stiches.
While there’s a lot of dead air in this one, the film is definitely meant to be watched at Christmas time with the family. I won’t say it’s a Christmas classic, but it’s the relative you’re always happy to invite over to share some eggnog with.
Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.