After two disastrous holidays, The Griswolds came back for yet another in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, a 1989 sequel in which Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen Griswold (Beverly D'Angelo) attempt to host a Christmas dinner with the whole family.
As ever, whatever Clark touches turns to catastrophe and every step of the way his plans are plagued by his own incompetence or just plain bad luck. Whether it's finding a suitable Christmas tree, checking out the attic, setting up Christmas lights or simply driving on the road, there's always a crash, a fall or an explosion around the corner. Written and produced by John Hughes, the film is right off the bat much better than its predecessor National Lampoon's European Vacation which looked cheap and was basically one stereotype after another with some cameos thrown in. Here, the premise is simple but the gags all pay off as Hughes imagines every single thing that could possibly go wrong on Christmas Eve and makes it happen through The Griswolds. Clark's hillbilly brother Eddie (Randy Quaid) is back as he invites himself to the house with his family, trusty RV and Rottweiler. Clark's kids Rusty and Audrey are once again played by new actors, namely Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis. There are also snobby neighbours who endure a lot of Clark's misguided ideas and they are played by Nicholas Guest and Julie Louis-Dreyfus.
Highlights include an electricity mishap as a cat gnaws on the tree lights before the whole thing bursts into flames, the family trying to chew through the driest turkey ever made and whenever Clark finally loses his cool. Not one joke is wasted here so it's no surprise that this film is still remembered as something of a Christmas classic: it's very funny from start to finish and even when it gets more mean-spirited, there's always some Christmas spirit nearby to balance things out. Mostly though, this is a terrific slapstick comedy which gives Chevy Chase more opportunity than ever to deliver his best pratfalls and his most awkward passive aggressive performance yet. The ending may be a bit of a retread of the original National Lampoon's Vacation's Walley World fiasco as Clark's boss is kidnapped by Eddie and is made to rethink his no Christmas bonus decision but it works in its own way. Slightly less dated than the first film, this second sequel gives up the road movie format thereby giving the franchise a welcome breath of fresh air.
There are very few similar-themed comedies that work quite as well as this one, many have tried but none have quite matched it. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is a very funny, consistently entertaining, extremely silly Christmas movie and I wouldn't have it any other way.