HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: 25th Anniversary Edition
HTS Overall Score:78
There are a few Christmas films that really embody the spirit of Christmas for me, the main ones being “A Christmas Story”, “Die Hard’ (duhhhh!) and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”. Written by veteran film writer John Hughes, It has to be one of the most watched movies in my entire Christmas collection. It was back in a time when Chevy Chase was actually funny (I know that seems like a lifetime ago), and back when the “Vacation” series had an edgy flair to them, before the typical softening of comedies as the franchise goes on. While “National Lampoon’s Vacation” is considered the first and one of the greatest comedies in the series, I personally find that “Christmas Vacation” is the better film of the two. Even though John Hughes always says that he writes sequels under duress, I have to say that the second time was charm (since he did write “Vacation”). It’s funny, witty, down right insane and if you’ve ever spent a giant Christmas gathering with your family, I’m sure pretty much all of us can find something in common with the poor Griswolds.
To celebrate last year being the 25th anniversary of the film, Warner Brothers has done something that the fans have been clamoring for the last several years. They remastered the lackluster looking Blu-ray and spruced it up with a nice digital copy and DVD of the film in a collectible steelbook packaging for the holidays.
Poor Clarke Griswold (Chevy Chase) is done taking his family to Wally World for vacation, this year he’s setting himself up for failure with yet another family gathering. This time it’s the all famous conglomeration of family from all walks of life in that wonderful holiday known as Christmas. While the rest of the family is set to just enjoy (or grit their teeth and bear) the holidays, Clarke has twinkle lights and sugar plum fairies in his eyes. He’s expecting his regular Christmas bonus this year, and he’s going to surprise his family with a brand new swimming pool for the back yard. He’s even gone so far as to put a giant $7,500 deposit on the pool, overstretching his means till that bonus check arrives. But not to be dissuaded by a little thing like stressfully waiting, Clarke mows on ahead as parents and in-laws gather at his house, including a few uninvited guests. I mean, what “Vacation” movie would be complete without Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and their dirt poor, redneck family. Or the inclusion of their aging 80 year senile aunt and her old fashioned and grumpy husband. Or the enjoyable addition of their rich, snobby, jerkish neighbors (played by Julia-Louis Dreyfuss and Nicholas Guest).
Now it wouldn’t be a “Vacation” movie if things didn’t go horribly wrong. Nothing seems to work right for the Griswold family in the movies, but this one is of epic proportions. Daughters Audrey (Juliette Lewis) and Rusty (this time played by Johnny Galecki who will go on to be famous as Leonard in “Big Bang Theory) have to give up their rooms to bunk with each other, while the rest of the extended family is crammed in. Clarke is stressed up to his eyeballs over their missing Christmas bonus check, and he distracts himself by becoming the biggest neighborhood nuisance ever with his over exuberant love of twinkle lights (25,000 lights to be exact, including a wiring job that would make any electrician sob). Clarke gets locked in his own freezing cold attic to freeze his tushie off, and then there is Uncle Eddie and family. NOTHING is safe when Uncle Eddie comes to town, and that includes kidnapping this year as well. However, throughout all this chaos, the Griswold’s still are able to find the magic of family, even if that magic is found after what seems like the most arduous several weeks of their life.
John Hughes is famous for saying that the “Vacation” series of movies are just a Chevy Chase vehicle, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. Back in the 80’s he was on fire with hit after hit, and his overly cheerful portrayal of the madcap Griswold family leader fits him quite well. “Christmas Vacation” has to be the madcap, yet the most grounded film of the series. If you’ve ever had a giant Christmas gathering with huge amounts of family coming in from out of state, then there are probably good sections of the movie that will jive with each and every viewer. I may not have the crazy aunt and uncle, or the grumpy grandparents, but who hasn’t had the bickering of in-laws, or the time where dad loses his cool due to the stress, or staring at your checkbook wondering just HOW this is all going to be possible. That’s what makes the movie so harshly funny. We’ve ALL had at least some of the checklist happen to us before.
Through it all “Christmas Vacation” has a lot of heart. No matter how much you want to punch Clarke upside the head, you have to admire his passion for family. He doesn’t get it right a lot of the time, and he certainly messes things up more than your average bear, but he loves his family and puts his heart and soul into giving everyone a good time. Whether they like it or not.
Rated PG-13 By the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=60162[/img]Warner has been making great leaps and strides in their treatment of catalog titles over the years. Lately they have been going back and doing 2K remasters from the IP and giving the discs a full BD-50 with high bitrates rather than their old BD-25’s with mid to high teens for the bitrates. Everything is nice and shiny with an AVC encoding and looking a lot better than the original 2006 release. Done at YCM labs the mastering finally gets rid of that mushy and overly red push that the original release was so plagued with. Gone are the artifacts and instead we have a very filmic presentation. Before we go on, I must warn you that no matter how much remastering goes on “Christmas Vacation” will always a 1989 movie shot on 35 mm film in a time when film stock wasn’t as razor sharp, due to budgets, as movies of different eras. Thusly the film will always retain a bit of a darker and grainer look to it.
Still, this new disc looks fantastic. Colors are natural and blacks, as deep as they get sometimes, don’t really ever crush (much). Fine detail is much improved, as we no longer just see a bit of a blurry mush for fine detail. Instead fibers are readily apparent on clothing, footprints in the snow look detailed as you can see the individual imperfections in the snow, and that nasty red push that was so prevalent in the original release is finally gone. Flesh tones are much more realistic and natural, without that ruddy tinge that the red push gave faces. Contrast levels are balanced and neutral, giving an overall pleasing look to the film at all times. There’s still a bit of softness thanks to filming style, which was pretty normal in the 80’s 35mm film stock, but overall this is the absolute best “Christmas Vacation” has ever looked.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=60170[/img]One of the saddest parts for me as an audiophile was noticing that many of the original catalog titles on Blu-ray from WB were given lossy Dolby Digital track, and “Christmas Vacation” has always suffered a bit from an anemic 192 kbps 2.0 track. It’s satisfactory, but barely different than the old DVD I have lying around. I remember being rather frustrated with the track back in the day, but had to bite the bullet as there was no alternative. Thankfully Warner has decided that the video AND the audio needed a bit of a boost. Gone is the lossy Dolby track and in its place is a newly recorded 2.0 track in lossless DTS-HD MA. While it may not seem like a whole lot on paper, the lossless re-encode of the original audio makes a big difference in reality. The whole track just has a lot more heft and weight to it. Dialog is stronger and more distinguishable and there is a lot more authority to the effects. The SWAT team crashing the dinner party at the very end is a great scene to A/B as it sounds a lot more powerful and emphatic. Background effects sound clearer and more audible instead of getting lost in the shuffle. Dialog is always clear and always audible, with a beautiful balance this time around. Way to go Warner!
• Feature commentary track with actors Randy Quaid, Beverly D'Angelo, Johnny Galecki, Miriam Flynn, director Jeremiah Chechik, and producer Matty Simmons
• DVD Copy
• Ultraviolet Digital Copy
It’s nice to see a title like “Christmas Vacation” receive a good remastering. With more and more studios on board with going back and remastering some of the lackluster early releases during the format war between Blu-ray and HD-DVD it’s been a revelation to see catalog titles being treated with the audio and video respect they deserve. “Christmas Vacation” hasn’t been an eye sore that some of the other catalog titles are on Blu-ray, but watching year after year has always left me with that “what could have been” when I see the image quality. Thankfully with this remaster I’m finally satisfied, and the gussying up of the steelbook makes this on a definite favorite in my collection. For those of you who are wondering if it’s worth the upgrade, I definitely think so. Sadly there are no major new extras on board for the set to make this a no brainer, but the increased fidelity and general look of the picture finally allows the film to shine as it should have been doing since December of 2006 when “Christmas Vacation” kick started the Blu-ray format as one of the first titles. Highly Recommended.
Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Juliette Lewis
Directed by: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Written by: John Hughes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0, Spanish DD 2.0, Spanish DD Mono
Runtime: 97 Minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: December 1st, 2015
Buy National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
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