NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION and IT’S A VERY MERRY MUPPET CHRISTMAS MOVIE- A (BELATED!) BUMPER DOUBLE CHRISTMAS REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION. 1989. 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.
IT’S A VERY MERRY MUPPET CHRISTMAS MOVIE. 2002. MUPPETS CREATED BY JIM HENSON. DIRECTED BY KIRK R. THATCHER. STARRING THE MUPPETS, JOAN CUSACK, DAVID ARQUETTE AND WHOOPI GOLDBERG.
I adore Christmas movies, which explains why I’m still watching ’em in the middle of January, haha. I’m just reluctant to let go of the whole tinsel ‘n’ turkey thing, I guess. Luckily, there are enough Crimbo movies in existence to keep me going for a while.
The two I’ve chosen for this review probably wouldn’t be at the very top of my Christmas movie wish-list, but they’re still good for a nice bit of heartwarming festive cheer tempered with madcap misunderstandings, zany schemes and a race against time or two.
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.
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 hit in the face with planks of wood, electrocuted hilariously and attacked by squirrels. Yes, I said squirrels. Randy Quaid does a good job as the obnoxious but lovable Eddie who sees fit to empty the foul contents of his RV’s ‘shitter’ on Sparky Clarky’s lawn. 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!’
The pre-Christmas mishaps come thick and fast and the scene in which the 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. Just 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 paterfamilias falls off a snow-covered roof while trying to put up twenty-five thousand twinkly Christmas lights. More’s the pity.
IT’S A VERY MERRY MUPPET CHRISTMAS MOVIE is based on Frank Capra’s perennial favourite, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, in which a small-town chap called George Bailey finds out just how much he’s loved and needed by getting a glimpse of what life would have been like if he’d never been born. It’s one of the most successful Christmas movies of all time, as if you guys didn’t know, haha. You can’t turn on a flippin’ telly at Christmas without seeing a snatch of it.
Speaking of Frank Capra, 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 if you know, film fans and movie nuts.
Anyway, the Muppets are all out in full force for this Christmas caper. In a nutshell, the adorable puppets are in danger of losing their beloved theatre to a Scrooge-like property developer called Rachel Bitterman, competently played by Joan Cusack. She plans to tear it down and turn it into a sleazy nightclub, of all things, unless the Muppets can pay her what they owe her.
Kermit The Frog gets horribly depressed and declares that he wishes he’d never been born, because then he wouldn’t have been around to screw everything up for the Muppets and himself. David Arquette, the one-time hubby of FRIEND Courtney Cox, plays the role of the angel sent to show him the error of his ways. He ain’t no Attaboy Clarence, put it like that, but I love Whoopi Goldberg in the role of the Great Creator Of The Universe. She’s laid-back and funny and witty and, furthermore, I always knew God was a woman, haha. In your face, anyone who ever thought otherwise…!
There’s plenty of singing, as always, and the cast of popular comedy show SCRUBS shows up in one scene, which is kind of random…! The scene with the most pathos, apart from that which has poor Kermit freezing his scrawny green butt off on a park bench in the snow, is the one in which we see what would have become of Miss Piggy if she’d never known Kermit. I won’t give anything away but let’s just say that her bill for tins of WHISKAS must be sky-high. Miaow…!
This isn’t as good as my favourite Christmas movie of all time, A MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL. This re-tells the story of Charles Dickens’s most famous creation, Ebenezer Scrooge, or Michael Caine in one of his most best-ever roles, in my humble opinion. The Muppets’ version of the most famous Christmas story of all time (yes, yes, I meant apart from the birth of Our Lord And Saviour Jesus Christ, obviously…!) is chock-full of gorgeous old-timey scenes and costumes and the heartwarming factor is off the freakin’ scale. It’s your all-round perfect Christmas movie, end of story. Don’t argue with me, I know people, haha.
Mind you, nothing could be as good as that brilliantly clever and funny festive flick, so don’t hold that against IT’S A VERY MERRY MUPPET CHRISTMAS MOVIE. It’s still a nice feel-good watch at the time of year when you need to feel like life is something worth holding onto and you have friends and family who care about you. It also has a talking prawn in it. What more do you people want…???
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.
In her capacity as a performance poet, she has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home. In 2003, she was invited to be a guest on Niall Boylan’s 98FM late-night radio talk show purely on the basis of having a ‘sexy voice.’
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at: