Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas! No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here! We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f**king Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he's gonna find the jolliest bunch of a**holes this side of the nuthouse!
-- Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase)
After European Vacation, no one had any reason to believe the Vacation series would get back on track. Not to mention, almost without exception, movie series tend to get worse as they go along, right? Well, not this time.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation ranks just slightly behind the original in terms of laughs, and it packs in even more heart without resorting to schmaltz. Again, I'm going to give a lot of the credit to John Hughes, the sole writer this time out. He makes just about every line funny, memorable, and quotable. He gives us a whole lot of characters, each well-defined and amusing. Hughes may have hit his peak here unfortunately, because after the following year's Home Alone, the man never wrote a great script again. (I think Dutch is hilarious, but even with all my Hughes love I can't call it "good.")
It was a "last hurrah" of sorts for Chevy Chase, too. Chase is really terrific here in what is, I'm sad to say, his final funny starring role (although I didn't see The Karate Dog). Oh, Chevy. What happened? Beverly D'Angelo returns, and is typically great ("Clark! Slow down! I don't want to spend the holidays dead!"). And my Lord, does Randy Quaid step it up here as Cousin Eddie. Chase's exchanges with Quaid are some of the film's funniest moments ("Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?"). If Quaid's delivery of gems like "Merry Christmas! Sh*tter was full!" and "That's the gift that keeps on giving the whole year!" don't make you laugh, well ... lighten up.