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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Holiday > National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (HD-DVD)

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (HD-DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Film: C-



By 1989, John Hughes ran out of ideas for comedies with any kind of heart or soul, so what did he do?  He went for broke and make a cycle of slapstick comedies where people got slapped, hit, run-over, shot, thrown and otherwise knocked around often non-stop.  It was more crass than comedy, peaking with the first Home Alone film, a project Warner Bros. turned down mistakenly.  They thought they already made their money on the idea, especially with the moderate second hit sequel National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation that year.


Chevy Chase was still capable enough of some comic moments, but he was running out of steam and into a ton of personal problems that would become obvious with each film that followed.  This remains the last film he can consider a hit.  The cast from the first National Lampoon’s Vacation film (1983, minus the gloriously wacky Lindsey Buckingham songs) and minus Harold Ramis or Amy Heckerling directing.  Instead, the cast was stuck with one of the biggest hacks of our time, director Jeremiah Chechik, who was allowed to soon disembowel the classic 1950s French thriller Diabolique and classic 1960s British TV series The Avengers, the latter of which thankfully ended his hideous career.


I never found this film very funny and how anyone could allow Chechik to direct again after this is amazing, except that it was a hit.  Still, why suddenly think he was qualified to do more serious material?  Hughes wrote the screenplay, but he seems bored and what might have been funny in the previous films is beyond tired here, now looking especially crass and no match for the likes of Richard Donner’s underrated Scrooged from the year before.  That film holds up much better.  This film actually had one more belated sequel theatrically and one straight-to-video dud no one even seems to know about.  It is better to quit while one is ahead.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image shows its age with some softness and some odd color at times, but still looks a tad better than a standard DVD version for what that’s worth, rivaled only by the first Lethal Weapon as Warner’s poorest HD-DVD (and we bet Blu-ray when issued) release.  The sound was released theatrically in old Dolby A-type analog stereo with monophonic Pro Logic surrounds, The Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 Stereo mix is not unlike the PCM 2.0 16bit/44.1kHz Stereo form the old 12-inch LaserDisc release from 1990 and might be the same master.  Dialogue shows its age and the score by Angelo Badalamenti (usually known for his work with David Lynch) is clearest, actually making this film a tad more tolerable.


Extras include Feature-Length audio commentary with Randy Quaid, Beverly D'Angelo, Johnny Galecki, Miriam Flynn, Director Jermemiah Chechik & Producer Matty Simmons, plus the original theatrical trailer.  By the way, those who remember the 50th Anniversary Bugs Bunny montage shown as a bonus in the film’s original theatrical release will be happy to know it is on The Looney Tunes Golden Collection – Volume Four as an extra.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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