Tag Archives: Chevy Chase

Christmas Vacation (1989, Jeremiah S. Chechik)

It’s telling how Christmas Vacation is probably John Hughes’s best film and no one noticed it when it came out. I mean, it’s got its problems–the introductory first half, where all the characters are established and Chevy Chase and company drive around that part of Wisconsin with the big mountains looking for a Christmas tree, is a complete mess. But once Christmas itself starts . . . the film’s solid gold.

The film, regardless of what section, works because of Chevy Chase. He’s not doing his doofus dad here. He’s doing his doofus dad with a nice amount of Fletch injected. It lets him have a little bit of edge and keeps him from being the butt of the jokes. Hughes recycles a lot from previous scripts (anyone else notice it’s basically Sixteen Candles at Christmas) and it’s entirely competent. In a lot of ways–the quality of jokes–it doesn’t even seem like him. The absence of black people (in Chicago, so Christopher Nolan’s Chicago is the same as John Hughes’s apparently) is visible until the end, when the one black actor is the film’s only real authority figure….

Anyway.

It’s perfectly cast–William Hickey and Mae Questel kind of walk away with it in terms of laughs, but John Randolph’s so good in it, in his one big scene, I teared up.

The production values–even with the bad Cali inserts–are good; Chechik can direct and Angelo Badalamenti’s score is way too classy.

It really is a modern classic.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik; written by John Hughes; director of photography, Thomas E. Ackerman; edited by Gerald B. Greenberg and Michael A. Stevenson; music by Angelo Badalamenti; production designer, Stephen Marsh; produced by Hughes and Tom Jacobson; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Chevy Chase (Clark Griswold), Beverly D’Angelo (Ellen Griswold), Juliette Lewis (Audrey Griswold), Johnny Galecki (Rusty Griswold), John Randolph (Clark Wilhelm Griswold Sr.), Diane Ladd (Nora Griswold), E.G. Marshall (Art Smith), Doris Roberts (Frances Smith), Randy Quaid (Cousin Eddie), Miriam Flynn (Catherine), Cody Burger (Rocky), Ellen Hamilton Latzen (Ruby Sue), William Hickey (Uncle Lewis), Mae Questel (Aunt Bethany), Sam McMurray (Bill), Nicholas Guest (Todd Chester), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Margo Chester), Brian Doyle-Murray (Mr. Frank Shirley) and Natalia Nogulich (Mrs. Helen Shirley).


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Caddyshack II (1988, Allan Arkush)

Now it makes sense–Rodney Dangerfield was originally going to come back for Caddyshack II, but then fell out over script disputes and Jackie Mason came in, persona in hand, to fill in. I kept wondering who writers Harold Ramis and Peter Torokvei envisioned in the lead role while writing the script.

My history with Caddyshack II is probably more amusing than the movie itself (not really–it’s a dumb movie, but it’s got a bunch of funny stuff in it). When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to see R rated movies, so instead of Caddyshack, I watched Caddyshack II. If I remember the first one correctly, they’re about on par with each other (no pun intended).

What Caddyshack II has going for it is the performances. Mason’s effective and often funny. He’s not a good actor, but he’s doing his schtick and it works. He’s so amusing, it’s believable when Dyan Cannon finds him beguiling. It shouldn’t work–I mean, Dyan Cannon was married to Cary Grant (which may or may not be part of the joke)–but it does.

The movie opens, rather smartly, with its younger cast though. Chynna Phillips, Brian McNamara, Jessica Lundy and Jonathan Silverman are all in the opening scene. I’d forgotten how appealing Silverman could be in his young everyman performances. It’s a solid opening–even after the menacing “An Allan Arkush Movie” credit a few moments before–almost entirely based on Silverman’s appeal, Phillips’s fantastic bitchiness and Lundy’s somewhat disguised warmheartedness. McNamara is okay in these opening scenes, maybe some of his best stuff in the movie, given he’s usually the butt of the jokes.

Throughout the film, these established personas for Phillips, Lundy and Silverman create frequent genial amusement. They never–except maybe Phillips–get the laugh-out-loud jokes, but they’re solid throughout. Silverman went on to some–very measured–success, Phillips did the music thing and Lundy disappeared for a while. The three of them ought to do some kind of a reunion (I think McNamara’s gone on to better performances).

The older actors–Robert Stack, Dina Merrill, Paul Bartel–are fine. Actually, Merrill’s great. Stack’s funny in the “I’m watching Robert Stack do this or that” and Bartel’s solid as always in his small role. He’s funnier rolling his eyes than most people are slipping on banana peels. Cases in point, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd and Marsha Warfield. Warfield’s the only one in the entire movie I feel bad for–it’s one of her few film credits and it’s a lame performance. It’s stunt casting. Chase is a lot better than Aykroyd and Chase is still terrible–Aykroyd’s beyond bad, constantly upstaged by the animatronic gopher. Admittedly, the gopher effects are pretty good and the little rodent is always getting into amusing situations–but still. Aykroyd bases his whole performance on what someone foolishly thought was a funny voice.

The movie falls apart a little halfway through–there are so many narrative jumps, I wonder what they cut–when Mason turns the golf course into an amusement park… but whatever. It’s not supposed to be good… it’s supposed to make you laugh for ninety minutes and smile afterwards. It probably succeeds.

And the less said about the desperately unfunny Randy Quaid, the better.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Allan Arkush; screenplay by Harold Ramis and Peter Torokvei, based on characters created by Brian Doyle-Murray, Ramis and Douglas Kenney; director of photography, Harry Stradling Jr.; edited by Bernard Gribble; music by Ira Newborn; production designer, William F. Matthews; produced by Neil Canton, Peter Guber and Jon Peters; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Jackie Mason (Jack Hartounian), Robert Stack (Chandler Young), Dyan Cannon (Elizabeth), Dina Merrill (Cynthia Young), Jonathan Silverman (Harry), Brian McNamara (Todd Young), Marsha Warfield (Royette), Paul Bartel (Mr. Jamison), Jessica Lundy (Kate), Chynna Phillips (Miffy Young), Randy Quaid (Peter Blunt), Chevy Chase (Ty Webb), Dan Aykroyd (Capt. Tom Everett), Anthony Mockus Sr. (Mr. Pierpont) and Pepe Serna (Carlos).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | CADDYSHACK (1980) / CADDYSHACK II (1988).