Plot: Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is determined to host the best family Christmas ever experienced, regardless of what he has to do in order to make that happen. He ventures into the woods to find the perfect tree, only to narrowly avoid death, freeze his children, and take home a tree that wouldn’t fit in his yard, let alone his cheerily decorated living room. But he doesn’t let that slow down his holiday spirit, as he soon begins to string up tens of thousands of lights, ready to make his house so festive, it will likely be visible from space. As he works on the exterior illumination, more family arrives and with them, drama and dysfunction. Clark retreats to his decorations for solace, only to be humiliated when he assembled the clan to watch the grand reveal, only to have not a single light shine. As things continue to fall apart around him, Clark remains focused on delivering the Christmas of a lifetime. But how much Clark endure before he snaps and drives his family into holiday hell?
Entertainment Value: A much beloved holiday movie, Christmas Vacation reunites the manic presence of Chevy Chase and the familial warmth of John Hughes, to give us a wild, hilarious experience. This is by no means high art, but it is the kind of movie that people watch so often, they have all the lines memorized and it is a part of countless holiday movie playlists. The movie does count on you coming in with a connection to the Griswolds, but it also lays on enough schmaltz to reel you in regardless, though it is only heavy handed in a couple scenes. The real force behind this movie is family, with Clark pushing himself beyond the sane limits of human endurance to provide what he hopes is an epic holiday experience. Chase is at his best as Clark, a manic, but loving family man who spirals into the abyss, but refuses to just cut his losses and free falls into a total mental breakdown. The rest of the cast is loaded with colorful, dysfunctional characters as well, but none as memorable as Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie. His scenes with Chase are insanely effective, as the two have such good chemistry, which the script is wise to capitalize on. Even small roles wind up as memorable here however, so it is a deep and talented lineup. The movie is silly, over the top, and ridiculous, but it is also warm and never fails to entertain.
Unlike previous Vacation installments, this one refrains from the bare breasts, though Clark’s poolside fantasy teases such a reveal. But we do get an extended look at Cousin Eddie’s bulge in one scene, so not all is lost, right? The dialogue in Christmas Vacation is epic, a consistent stream of memorable, quotable lines that have become part of the pop culture lexicon. Clark is a goldmine is his own right, but when paired with Cousin Eddie, the two are dysfunctional legends. The actors play off each other so well, even small moments tend to stand out as hilarious or awkwardly fun. As fun as those two can be, the supporting cast is also given time to shine, with even the most minor roles able to rattle off some terrific lines or interactions. I don’t think a single scene passes often that doesn’t have at least one home run, quotable line involved. And thanks to a game cast that makes the most of those lines and exchanges, the dialogue here is an endless source of entertainment. The movie has a consistent offbeat vibe, but the family warmth and schmaltz do even out the craziness a little. But Clark is Clark, so his slide into madness reaches some peaks of insanity that are wild to watch, but the general dysfunction, loving as it is, still adds some points as well.
Overall Insanity: 6/10