National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

The film that I chose to watch was one my favorites for this season, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. My family watches a bunch of Christmas films around December, and this one is by far the favorite in my house. I was ecstatic when I noticed it was playing in Kirkoff, so I asked a few friends to come and watch it with me. As we sat down with our popcorn, we noticed that many people had same idea for their Monday night, de-stressing from the pressures of finals coming up in a couple of weeks. Since I had already watched this film many times, I did not think that I would notice anything different. I was completely wrong. As I watched the film this time I got to see key things that I was not looking for during the previous times.

Like many dads, Clark Griswold had high expectations for his family as the countdown to Christmas had begun. He wanted this Christmas to be special so he took the bold step in inviting his parents, his wife’s parents, his uncle Louis and aunt Bethany, and finally his cousin-in-law Eddie’s family. Chris carefully planned this special Griswold family Christmas for months and months before he invited the whole family over. This Christmas had to be the most fun-filled, old-fashioned family Christmas, that no one would ever forget because the last two had been disastrous. As soon as the whole family was under the same roof, they had no idea what a week they were going to have. This film is filled with laughter, many mishaps, and most importantly the love of family.

This film was released on December 1st 1989 in the United States and it was a huge hit, just like the other two films in this series.This film originated from a short story called Christmas 59 in 1980 by writer John Hughes. Chris Columbus was supposed to direct this film, but had a personality clash with the lead actor in the film, Chevy Chase. This huge clash ended in Chris Columas leaving the film and being replaced by Jeremiah S. Chechik. Chechik has directed a few well-known films such as Benny and Joon (1993), Diabolique (1996), and The Avengers (1998). He has also won many awards over the years such as Directors Guild of America in 2008 and Razzie Awards in 1999.

Many people would agree that when someone fails or gets hurt it is funny. No matter how hard we try not to laugh or to smile, we just can not help it. This film draws the viewers in by making it relatable, which is done by showing how failure can be humorous. The actor Charlie Chaplin plays the over dedicated father on this film. Everything he does to try and make the holidays more festive somehow always backfire on him and cause a giant problem. The director over exaggerated the issues that the family ran into, making this more comical to the audience. There are many cultural norms that surround the holiday season, such as hanging lights up all over the house, cooking, having everyone together, shopping for the perfect gifts and getting a big Christmas tree. While completing these tasks may sound easy, many people can agree that this time of year is very stressful. It is refreshing to see how others are just as stressed out by the Christmas tasks. By exaggerating the issues that arise in the film, the director makes this approach even more effective. Throughout the film, many terrible things happen to this family, weighing them down until it was time for them to just cut their losses and call it quits. This leads into one of the best lines in the entire film. This line comes from the father, Clark Griswold, “Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny- fucking-Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.” All Clark ever wanted was to have the perfect family Christmas. This is portrayed throughout the entire film by not only all of the crazy things he does, but also the stress he endures trying to make everything perfect. He knew exactly what he wanted this Christmas to look like and this blindsided the whole meaning of Christmas. Christmas is all about spending time with the people you love and Clark lost sight of this while planning his extravagant “Griswold Family Christmas.” The ending shows the realization that there is no such thing as a perfect Christmas and Clark saw that he had been looking it at all wrong. Clark then started to enjoy the company of his loved ones that surrounded him.

By using many different film techniques, the director allows the audience to better understand the emotions throughout the film. Close-ups were used many times in this film to help the viewers feel like they are being pulled in. For example, on Christmas Eve, the whole family sat down to enjoy a meal that took hours to prepare. Many things went wrong during this dinner, including the turkey being over cooked, causing it to only have the skin and bones left. To show the emotions of the characters and the disappointment and shock on their faces, the director chose to get up close so the viewers could see the details. Another film technique that was used was a bird’s eye view shot. This shot is used to look directly down on a scene. A prime example was when the Griswold’s went to pick out their family Christmas tree. By allowing the audience to see the entire tree in this shot and then to see how small the family looked at the bottom, they were shown how ridiculous the size of this tree was. The Christmas tree was way too big to fit into a decently sized house, so using this type of shot allowed viewers to get a laugh in. Lastly, handheld shots were utilized to make the viewers feel like they were a part of the scene. This was used when the whole Griswold family went on a sledding adventure. Clark decided to put an extra slippery solution on the bottom of his sled so he would go the farthest. This backfired on him when he want racing down the hill and eventually ended up off the usual sledding route. We got to see Clark’s whole journey down the hill by seeing exactly what he saw. All of these key film techniques made the film more interesting and entertaining to watch.

The best part of this experience was seeing the reactions from the people around me. The theater roared of laughter as this film was played. As I looked around I couldn’t help but see smiles creeping on everyone’s faces as something funny happened. I can tell that the viewers were very interested in the film based on their eyes rarely leaving the screen. Overall this was a memorable experience because I got to watch one of my favorite films with a few of my close friends. I have watched all of the other films in this series and this is one by far my favorite because of how much effort was put in to the creation of this film. I would definitely recommend this film to other people because it shows that Christmas is not suppose to be “perfect,” it is all about spending time with the people that you love.

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