National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation ★★★★

This is Chevy Chase's Chaplin film, as he seeks to turn Clark Griswold from a bumbling buffoon to a bumbling buffoon who we ~~care about~~ (just watch the sequence with Clark watching old Christmas home movies from a generation previous while stuck in the attic if you don't believe me - all that's missing is thick glycerine tears). The weird thing is that it actually kind of works. The same can be said for the usual John Hughes bullshit - I dunno if there's actually such a thing as white minstrelsy, although if there is it's exemplified by the character of Cousin Eddie and his trashy family. But the character works because of the commitment of Randy Quaid to making him somewhat human, or at least a recognizable caricature, rather than the mean-spirited stereotype the character probably seems like on paper.

The potential for genuine pathos is there too, like in the scene where Eddie's wife breaks down in tears after the Christmas turkey explodes in a heap, but her sadness is just setup for a bunch of sight gags about the family's difficulty in chewing the terrible turkey. That's the general pattern - sadness exists, but it's hilarious.

And yet even as I recognize this nasty cynicism, the movie mostly still works for me, if for no other recognizable reason than "it makes me laugh."

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