Movies you might have missed
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Title: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
Directed by: Jeremiah Chechik
Available on: YouTube
Brief Synopsis: Clark W. Griswold pulls out all the stops to have the best family Christmas ever.
Aggregate Scores: 7.6 IMDb 64% Rotten Tomatoes
Review: I know what you're thinking. You've probably seen this movie. Multiple times. You might have even seen it in the last few days. Usually, this column is dedicated to the underappreciated and unseen gems of the film world. While Christmas Vacation has certainly been seen by many, just like Clark's tireless efforts for the perfect Christmas, its efforts are underappreciated.
Christmas Vacation is an expertly crafted version of one of the most prolific movie genres: family comedy. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) wants to create the perfect Christmas. He naively brings his whole family together, under one roof, and the results are predictably chaotic.
While family hijinks is a common theme in these type of movies, CV distances itself from the rest by having strong and effective moments of pathos. It's hard not to watch the scenes of the oversized Christmas tree, or over-illuminated houses, and not recall holiday memories of your own. Clark himself has these moments when he watches old home videos, dabbing away tears while he is trapped in his attic (while rocking his grandmother’s finest gloves). It's at this point we realize Clark isn't trying to have the best Christmas for himself but that he is trying to recreate the feelings he had as a young child for his parents, wife, and children to enjoy. While all these scenes are mostly played for yucks, it humanizes the rather kooky characters. Clark is called, "the last true family man" early on in the film and that is a label he will try his best to live up to, even if he can't. His struggle adds an extra dimension to this film.
In addition, CV is surprisingly layered. On each repeated viewing, you will be surprised to find a joke you may have missed, or discover something to be much funnier than before. As for the characters, you will find yourself relating to each generation the closer you get to their age. The younger viewers will empathize with the sheer boredom that comes with helping to untangle the Christmas lights. Parents will understand the struggle of trying to balance hospitality and personal wants, all while trying to figure out how their parents made it work. Elders will know the difficulty of being in the weird position of handing over the torch to the next generation and having to follow their strange new traditions.
For a sequel that was simply meant to cash in on the lucrative holiday market, CV surprisingly holds up beyond being a simple Christmas movie. With a cracking screenplay by the late-great John Hughes, and a wonderfully talented cast, this film belongs on the pantheon of holiday classics.