Chevy Chase — star of such landmarks of contemporary cinema as Oh Heavenly Dog!, Under the Rainbow, and Caddyshack II — returns in the third installment of the wildly successful Griswold Family saga and delivers just what you’d expect: pratfalls, shameless mugging, and a few emotional moments that resemble acting.
You won’t mistake any of this for Nichols and May. For one thing, it isn’t particularly fresh. John Hughes’ script recycles elements from the original Vacation (Chase fantasizing about yet annther beautiful mystery woman, for instance, and Randy Quaid’s white trash in-law). And what is new here (a subplot involving obnoxious yuppie neighbors) can hardly be deemed original moviemaking.
But National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation makes you laugh anyway, and there” no need to be apologetic about it. Chase’s befuddled Dad remains a genuinely amusing creation, and the sight gags are impeccably timed. The final sequences — featuring William Hickey and Mae Questel (New York Stories) as senile old coots — are in such wonderfully bad taste that you’ll even forgive the sentimental ending.
As guilty pleasures go, this one actually deserves to be included in the Chevy Chase film festival.