National Lampoon's Four Vacations - Part II
Review By: Gringo

Ah, the Griswolds. No doubt you've already enjoyed yourselves reading part one of my review of their four-movie holiday saga. Well, the enjoyment part was probably the moment that you used your mouse to click on the 'Close' button in the top right of the screen. See how helpful I am? I even tell you how to escape this site quickly! Oh, Gringo, you say, Gringo you are such a nice person! Anyway, regardless of my generosity, it's time to continue the story. When we left off, Chevy Chase was busy being involved with a monstrosity of a 'comedy' movie called National Lampoon's European Vacation. And he would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for you meddling kids. Thankfully the reviews and general audience reaction to the second in the holiday-based series was less than positive. It was downright atrocious. This merciful act of universal condemnation led to another wild jump in the series' fortunes, with the advent of the - hopefully - final two installments. One would be exceptionally good, the best so far. One would be dull, plodding and a lurch back (although not as far) to the miserable experience of the European Vacation. Now to tell you which one was which! How exciting!

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Quite simply the best vacation the family ever took. Although the title is something of a contradiction. After all, it's not like they went anywhere; they spent the Christmas holiday at home. In addition, this movie has probably the worst tagline of any in the series, stating as it does "Yule crack up". Hello? Sense? I know it's a play on words meant to make us think "Oh, it's like 'You'll crack up'. But Christmas-related! Such wit!", but it could also mean that a Yule log is cracking into pieces. If so, it has little to do with the action in this movie. Confusion! Getting back to the point somewhat, this movie opens with a humorous cartoon credit sequence of Santa Claus - or Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Beelzebub or whatever you want to call the jolly fat man in the red suit - getting injured as he tries to deliver presents to the Griswold residence. Doesn't sound too funny, but it is. Trust me. Thankfully, the laughs continue throughout the entire movie, reveling in the mishaps and calamities that occur when Clark and Ellen Griswold invite their parents (both sides of the family) to stay with them over Christmas. Randy Quaid also turns up as yokel cousin Eddie, a Vacation series regular. But his scenes are probably the least funny in the movie, so I'll gloss over them.

Eventually, Clark's utter frustration at the fact that everything goes wrong - including Uncle Lewis' wig setting on fire, and a squirrel launching a renegade attack mission from its secure base in the Christmas tree - leads to an excellent outburst. With his entire family - including in-laws and eccentric others - present, Clark shouts the following diatribe: "We're going to 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 going to find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse!". How I'd love to shout that on Christmas Day. In fact, I'd love to shout that every day of the year, just to confuse people in the middle of the summer. This movie is a return to what made the original Vacation so amusing; the believability of the situation the Griswolds find themselves in. Even when there's an explosion of poop in the neighbourhood, causing a foul stench, there are no unfunny stereotypes and lame jokes of the sort that the family's trip to Europe indulged in. Simply for being so different to the second movie in the series, Christmas Vacation should be praised forever.

National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation. If the third movie was a major improvement over the Griswold's holiday in Europe, their trip to Las Vegas in the fourth and hopefully final movie was a return to the days of mundane entertainment. And I'm not even talking about Listen To Me this time! The movie's far from the depths reached by European Vacation, but it's not exactly a laugh-a-minute joke spectacular. If that's the kind of movie you're after, I recommend Ninja Academy. Well, no, I don't really. The premise of this holiday 'comedy' is that the Griswolds are going on vacation to - can you guess? - Las Vegas, thus promising many wacky hijinks and comedy shenanigans along the way. Except there aren't a great deal. Sadly, cousin Eddie turns up yet again, and almost every scene he's in tends to drag the movie down and subdue the laughs. New cast members have once again replaced Rusty and Audrey, which to someone who doesn't know the history of the series would be slightly confusing. Sadly, I've seen all four movies so I just accepted the change as fact. I'll even forgive the constant rotation of actors and actresses, because this movie contains the golden line "Get your own monkey!".

The jokes in the movie are all right, and there are some humorous scenes, such as a visit to the Hoover Dam and some great self-parody by Wayne Newton. But following the greatness of the third movie, it's hard to find any point behind Vegas Vacation having been made. Let's just hope that the Griswold family aren't going to be taking any more holidays for quite some time. Better still, don't let them leave the house ever again. The funniest movie in the series most of the time took place indoors, in a small American town. The worst in the series took place outdoors, at various locations in Europe. Whilst Vegas Vacation isn't a great comedy, its completely standard humour and rather flat ending is a fine testament to a series which, if you calculated the quality of the four movies and divided them equally - would come out as utterly average. Maybe Chevy Chase should have stuck with Saturday Night Live for a few more seasons. Or maybe he should have stopped after Christmas Vacation. I don't know the answers, because I don't own a time machine. What I can tell you, however, is that Mr. Chase should have left Snow Day well and truly alone. Now that was a diabolical movie. Praise Marty Moose!


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