NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION. (1989) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION. (1989) WRITTEN AND BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY JOHN HUGHES. DIRECTED BY JEREMIAH CHECHIK.
STARRING CHEVY CHASE, BEVERLY D’ANGELO, RANDY QUAID, JOHNNY GALECKI, JULIETTE LEWIS, DIANE LADD, DORIS ROBERTS, SAM MCMURRAY AND JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION is the story of Clark Griswold, ably played by Chevy Chase. Clark just wants a nice perfect family Christmas for his family. He wants the perfect Christmas tree, the perfect turkey and the house all decked out with so many lights that you can see it from space. I’ve said this before, but the Americans really do do Christmas better than anyone else, and nowhere do they do it better than in these lovely ‘Eighties Christmas movies.

Clark’s so looking forward to the perfect family Christmas that he doesn’t even mind that his own parents and his in-laws will be joining them for the holidays. The more the merrier, is how he sees things. That is, until his wife’s cousin and her deadbeat hubby rock up in their decrepit RV with their nippers and delinquent mutt Snots in tow and announce their intention to stay indefinitely. Just what you want to hear at Christmas, isn’t it?

And when the expected Christmas bonus from his Scrooge-like boss doesn’t materialise and he’s seven and a half grand out of pocket on the deposit for a swimming pool for his family, Clark finds that he’s really up against it. Can he recover his Christmas spirit and manage to enjoy the holiday season to which he’s been looking forward so fervently? We can only hope he does…

There’s a load of slapstick comedy in this film to satisfy the viewers who love to see people being hit in the face with planks of wood, electrocuted hilariously and attacked by squirrels. Yes, I said squirrels. Randy INDEPENDENCE DAY Quaid does a great job as the hilariously obnoxious but lovable Eddie who sees fit to empty the foul contents of his RV’s ‘shitter’ on Sparky Clarky’s lawn. Dontcha just love visitors who come for the holidays?

There’s a whole host of familiar faces in the film that you’ll have seen in many other movies since this one, so have loads of fun playing: ‘Now where the diddly-dickens have I seen him/her before…? And what the devil was the name of that thing they were in…? Martha, get in here! Who’s that actor there? No, not that one, that one! I’ll be up all night trying to remember unless I can think of their name, it’ll drive me mad…! Martha, get the kids in here, maybe THEY’LL know!’ Let’s see if I can help a little bit…

Doris Roberts used to play Mildred Krebs in REMINGTON STEELE, that sexy American detective series featuring Stephanie Zimbalist and the swoonsome Pierce Brosnan. Juliette Lewis, the Griswold’s teenage daughter, is known for such films as CAPE FEAR with Robert DeNiro, Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange, and NATURAL BORN KILLERS with Woody Harrelson from CHEERS.

Sam McMurray once played Chandler Bing’s boss in sitcom FRIENDS. He was the boss who’d give anyone who did good work a resounding slap on the butt, and, at first, this made Chandler deeply uncomfortable, but then he started to really miss it after he’d made his boss stop doing it, haha. That was a good episode. Mind you, they were all good episodes. A winner every one. Bill Doyle-Murray, who plays Clark’s boss in the film, is actually the older brother of actor and comedian Bill Murray, of SCROOGED and GHOSTBUSTERS fame, a fact I didn’t even know myself until now.

Johnny Galecki used to be in sitcom ROSEANNE, starring Roseanne Barr and John Goodman, and in THE BIG BANG THEORY, and multi-award-winning comedian and actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who plays the Griswold’s yuppie next-door-neighbour, Margo, was in SEINFELD and THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE.

Diane Ladd is the mother of actress Laura Dern (JURASSIC PARK). William Hickey was nominated for an Oscar for his role in PRIZZI’S HONOUR, also starring Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner and Anjelica Huston, but I personally remember him best for playing Al Pacino’s gravelly-voiced, poetry-spouting old dad in sexy thriller SEA OF LOVE, which co-starred Ellen Barkin.

And now to the piece de resistance of who-used-to-play-what-role. Mae Quetzel, who portrays dotty old Aunt Bethany, used to voice animated characters Betty Boop and Olive Oyl in the ‘Thirties. Anyone who did anything at all that long ago is surely worthy of our respect and a round or two of applause, lol. And, overall, that’s quite the line-up for just one movie, isn’t it? It’s got a classy, even iconic, cast.

The pre-Christmas mishaps come thick and fast and the scene in which cute but uncouth little Ruby Sue asks her Uncle Clark if he’s Santa Claus is as sweet as sugar. The film has all the trimmings and trappings of the ideal American family television Christmas so, you know what? I’m perfectly satisfied. Sometimes that’s all you need from a festive film.

I’m not American, by the way, I’m actually Irish. In case you were wondering why I’m bigging up the Americans and their festive traditions so much. But there sadly aren’t any Irish films in which a determined but misguided paterfamilias falls off a snow-covered roof while trying to put up twenty-five thousand twinkly Christmas lights, for the sole edification of his family and neighbours. More’s the pity.

By the way, if you carefully watch the credits of NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, you’ll see that someone called Frank Capra the Third worked on the movie. Could he possibly be the grandson of the original Frank Capra? That would be amazing if it were true. Answers on a postcard, film fans and movie nuts.

PS, if you’re the kind of person who switches off the credits or even- Gawd ‘elp us!- walks out of the cinema while the credits are playing, you’re running the risk of, firstly, missing a funny bit at the end, secondly, missing the weaker second credits song, and, thirdly, disrespecting the efforts of the hundreds or even thousands of good peeps who worked hard on the movie and made your viewing experience as good as they could possibly make it. So sit your butt back down there, mister, and pay your dues. It’s not much to ask. Oh, and Happy Christmas to you and yours…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

JINGLE ALL THE WAY. (1996) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

jingle all the wayJINGLE ALL THE WAY. (1996) DIRECTED BY BRIAN LEVANT. STARRING ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, JAKE LLOYD, RITA WILSON, PHIL HARTMAN, ROBERT CONRAD, SINBAD AND JAMES BELUSHI. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Ho-ho-ho and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and all that festive jazz…! JINGLE ALL THE WAY is one of those seasonal staples that’s as much a part of Christmas as getting pissed on bubbly while you’re waiting for the turkey to cook, and shagging the one person at your work’s annual Christmas do who’s guaranteed to put the snap you drunkenly allowed them to take of your ass up on social media. That’s not just me, surely…? Lol.

Anyway, I’d classify JINGLE ALL THE WAY as a Christmas comedy on a par with THE GRINCH WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS, NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, HOME ALONE and all those other favourite Crimbo films we all love to unearth at this time of year. Parents will identify with it (painfully so, I’d say!) and kids will laugh their heads off at it.

It stars the Austrian Oak, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he’s in a much more perilous situation than any fix he’s ever had to face in his TERMINATOR or other action-packed movies. He’s a Dad at Christmas who has failed, repeat failed, to pick up the toy his son wants for Christmas in advance of the big day. Boo…! For shame, Howard Langston, for shame. That’s his name, lol.

He is a bad father. He should be tied to a chair and pelted with tofu balls while Cliff Richard’s MISTLETOE AND WINE plays on repeat on the sound-system. Too harsh, you say? No, I’m sorry but the penalty stands. It has to stand, if the world order isn’t to collapse under a weight of wrapping paper and festive ribbons and bows.

There’s no crime worse than failing to buy Little Timmy or Tammy Snotnose exactly what they want for Christmas. Money equates love, see? The bigger the gift, the more you love your kid. Simple. And buy two of everything. The little brats won’t wanna share. And for Chrissakes, remember the bloody batteries…!

Howard is horrified to discover on Christmas Eve that he has neglected to purchase the toy which his son Jamie has asked Santa for this Crimbo. The must-have toy-du-jour is Turbo Man. I love the way the people in the toy-stores all laugh maniacally at him when he asks for a Turbo Man. Any self-respecting parent worthy of the name knows that that particular toy has been sold out for months. Hah!

The scenes of chaos in the toy-stores in the film on this Christmas Eve are terrifying, but not at all unusual. A family member had the misfortune to work in a Dublin toy-store last Christmas and she still hasn’t forgotten the misery. The stampeding, the screaming and bawling, the abuse, the recriminations, and that was just the staff. Never mind the pushy parents or the marauding kids.

She sits in her chair at home every day now, not talking, just continually rocking back and forth, and when she closes her eyes she can still see the shells falling, smell the awful smell of burning flesh and put her hands into the pile of goo that used to be her best friend’s face… No, wait a minute. That was ‘Nam, wasn’t it? From what I hear, though, there’s not much difference between the two…

Anyway, Howard finds himself in some extraordinary situations as he races around town looking for a Turbo Man doll in time for the Christmas Parade later in the day. Followed everywhere he goes by a manic mailman looking for the same toy and a pissed-off copper who likes to give out parking tickets, he encounters a group of crooked Santas (crooked in the sense of corrupt, not askew!), chases a small girl through a crowded shopping mall, breaks into his neighbour’s house with theft in mind and pretty much terrorises the host of a radio show.

This is all in the name of finding the doll and proving to little Jamie and his wife Liz that he’s neither the screw-up they seem to think he is nor a neglectful, emotionally- and physically- absent parent.

What the kid and the wife don’t seem to realise is that the reason that Dad is away so much is because he’s working his butt off to keep the ungrateful pair in the style they’ve obviously long been accustomed to. And what a style! Their house is fabulous.

As this is an American film, they’ve really gone to town on making the film look as magically Christmassy as possible. I’ve always maintained that the Americans know how to keep Christmas well, as old Scrooge might say.

The houses and snow-covered gardens and streets are all decked out in full festive regalia, the shops look gorgeous and there are real carollers singing in the open air in proper Victorian garb. Charles Dickens, the writer credited with inventing the true traditional Victorian Christmas by putting it all down in his books for posterity, would be proud to see how wonderfully festive it all is.

Arnie is funny and handsome throughout, especially when he’s all togged out as Turbo Man for the parade. I love the way his wife says ‘Howard…!’ in surprise when she realises that she’s actually sexually attracted to her husband in the super-hero suit. Well, it’s a very snug-fitting suit, ahem. I wouldn’t be in any rush to take it back to the costume shop myself…

Phil Hartman, the voice of both Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure from THE SIMPSONS, does a real star turn here as the obnoxious Ted, Howard’s annoying, know-it-all next-door-neighbour who always has to go one better, much to Howard’s irritation.

It’s a lot like THE SIMPSONS, with Ted as Ned the pious and virtuous neighbour who gets his son’s TURBO MAN weeks in advance of Christmas and Howard as Homer who forgets it completely until- you guessed it- the last minute.

Homer, however, would have forgotten it because he was more interested in boozing at Moe’s Bar than in preparing for Christmas, something he’d perceive to be Marge’s territory. Howard only forgets because he’s genuinely snowed-under at work. Snowed-under, geddit? It’s funny ’cause it’s Christmas.

Anyway, the housewives all adore the newly-divorced Ted, and Ted has his sights set on Howard’s missus Liz, probably because he’s actually jealous as hell of the muscular Howard. I love Ted’s line to Howard which reveals all Ted’s own insecurities and petty envy: ‘You can’t bench-press your way out of this one…!’ See what I mean? Jealous, jealous, jealous.

The film is good clean fun, if a tad far-fetched and, at the end, the commercial message it’s been sending to viewers all throughout the film (to buy, buy, buy and then buy some more) gets turned completely on its head, which is nice.

Keep watching those end credits as well, because there’s a cute little twist right at the very end which impatient viewers, anxious to switch off and get the little horrors to bed, might miss. Aw, kids. Kids are great, aren’t they? You can’t live with them, you can’t donate them to charity. Well, that’s what the woman in Oxfam told me, anyway, and she’d know…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

jingle all the way