Plot: What’s it about?
When the name “Griswold’s” comes up, everyone automatically thinks of Clark and Ellen (Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo respectively)…then they think of their own family and how the two must be one and the same. That’s one of the enduring appeals of the Vacation series of movies, it appeals to most everyone who has ever been on a trip from Hell. The first two installments in the series showed us that the trips, though well thought out and organized in theory, can have disastrous consequences once Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong, will) gets involved. With the third, “Christmas Vacation”, there really was no vacation to be had. The family went nowhere and never even planned on it. In fact, the Griswolds stayed at home to enjoy the holiday season by themselves and the rest of their family came to visit them. Funny? Yes! If ever there is an instance in what can go wrong than a family vacation, it’s some “quality time” with the In-Laws. The franchise was a bona-fide hit by the time this 1989 part of the series rolled around, so much so that many consider this to be the best one of the four (the 1996 Vegas Vacation shall not be discussed). So what is it that keeps us coming back for more and more of the Griswolds?
Who knows? However, in this installment we find Clark as he is eagerly anticipating his bonus to buy the family a pool. We see that once again Rusty and Audrey have defied the age barrier and that Rusty (Johnny Galecki) is now about 12 years old again (he’s become shorter and evidently has regressed through puberty). Audrey (Juliette Lewis) is now older as well. I’m not quite sure what the logic is in keeping the parents the same, but constantly changing the actors. I think the funniest thing to do would be to do a fifth “Vacation” movie with the original kids all grown up with their kids and have Clark and Ellen as Grandparents. That’s just my two cents, though. Nevertheless, the Griswolds plan to entertain and Clark’s dream of lighting up his house is just one of many obstacles that he must overcome during this joyous Holiday season. The movie gets really interesting when Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) shows up with his kids. Eddie, left out of European Vacation has made notable appearances in the rest of the quadrilogy and is usually the high point of the movies. Another point of note is that this is an early appearance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus (aka Elaine on “Seinfeld”). Could it be that her appearance in this movie got her the role in one of the best television series ever? It could be.
Nevertheless, worse comes to worse, Clark’s Christmas bonus turns out to be the “gift that gives the whole year around” and Cousin Eddie decides to do a little something about it. Describing slapstick comedies is something that takes a lot of skill, probably more than I have. However I can say this: if you’re a fan of the Vacation movies, then you’ll want to add this to your collection. This is probably Chevy Chase’s last good movie as he went really downhill after this. The supporting cast is great and Randy Quaid (I say once again) steals the show. Warner has wisely given this a new 16:9 transfer (as the original was full-frame) just in time for what will be the Holiday Season. Pretty smart, Warner. If anyone has any theories as to why the Griswold kids keep fluctuating between 11 and 16 years old, I’m all ears. Other than that, enjoy this Special Edition of “Christmas Vacation”. Ho! Ho! Ho!
Video: How’s it look?
Debuting on Blu-ray in its early days, fans have long been begging for a new transfer. Well, prayers have been answered. While I’ve never found this film to look bad, the new 4K image does show some noticeable improvements. Detail, for one, has been improved – the little twinkling lights on the house, some of the backgrounds and we’ve got more defined edges all around. HDR adds a bit more to the transfer in the darker scenes and things just seem a bit sharper and more refined overall. It’s not a night and day difference, like most 4K discs, but for true fans of the movie this is the best it’s ever looked.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The DTS HD 2.0 track present on the older Blu-ray is present as well as a newly remixed 5.1 track. There’s just a cleaner, more audible track this time. I was able to keep the volume at a pretty steady level without looking for the remote to adjust it (like I did with the old disc). This is a comedy first and foremost, so fans shouldn’t expect a robust track, but it serves the film just as it should. I’m always a fan of using every speaker in my arsenal, so it was 5.1 for me all the way.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The same commentary and trailer are all that are found on these discs.
- Audio Commentary – This is the same track that was recorded years ago. It features several members of the cast as well as a Producer and the Director. It’s worth a listen at least once.
The Bottom Line
The good news is that we’ve got this film in 4K with a better-looking picture than in the past (though the bar was set pretty high). The bad is that it’s essentially the same disc as we’ve had for years. We’ve got the same supplements albeit with “new” cover art. The addition of a newly-remixed 5.1 track might add some additional allure, but odds are unless you’re clamoring to have this in 4K – keep what you’ve got.