Warner Home Video / 1989 / 97 Minutes / Rated PG-13
Street Date: November 18, 1997
For whatever reasons, the Vacation films are on a similar track with Star Trek. But where the Trek films seem to run a really good one on the even numbered adventures, Vacations have taken the odd numbered road. While the original is considered a classic, the second and fourth installments are strangely forced and not really that funny. The third trip with the Griswalds, Christmas Vacation, is by far the funniest.
This trip, instead of taking to the road in some strange land, the Griswalds keep it home for the holidays with all the various nightmare relatives. This is the strangest land of all! If you've never seen Christmas Vacation, I can't really tell you anything that happens out of fear of ruining many of the great jokes. But you've got to love the only Christmas film in history to contain the line "Merry Christmas, shitter's full!"
Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo are both back as is Randy Quaid. New to this go-round are EG Marshall, Diane Ladd and Julia Louis-Dreyfus when she was only known as "hey, didn't she used to be on Saturday Night Live?" Another addition, or rather change, is the change in the kids, Rusty and Audry. Juliette Lewis and Roseanne's Johnny Galecki are the temps brought in for that task in this third Vacation pic. With this cast and a genuinely funny story, Christmas Vacation has made inroads over the last ten-years to become a true holiday standard, even though there's nothing standard about it.
Video: How Does The Disc Look?
Presented in full-frame only, I would suspect that at least some of the picture is cropped on the sides. It looked to me like the matte shots were conspicuously tightly framed at the top and bottom, but without a widescreen edition it'll be impossible to say. Video quality is generally good here. Most notably, the picture has moments were it is a bit too soft looking, almost slightly out-of-focus. Another deficiency is a presence of film grain with a tad of pixelation every now and again.
On the plus side, colors and saturation are excellent with no bleeding or drifting. Detail is somewhat lacking in the softer shots, something to be expected. Black level and shadow detail are right on the money for many of the film's night scenes. I would have loved at least a non-anamorphic widescreen edition on the disc, but alas, that will have to wait quite a while longer I'm afraid.
Audio: How Does the Disc Sound?
The English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track is in effect a mono soundtrack with the other four speakers being used almost exclusively for the music. Dynamic range is suitable without being pushy and there's a real lack of any bottom end. Although, watching Christmas Vacation, you'll hardly even notice. Dialog is what is most important here and that is presented most effectively with no distortion or masking from music or other mono effects. Surround use is again almost extensively for the music. French and Spanish mono tracks have been included with all three languages repeated as subtitles.
Supplements: What Goodies Are There?
The original theatrical trailers for all four Vacation movies have been included in full-frame/mono with only the Vegas Vacation trailer in 2.0 stereo.
While the Christmas Vacation DVD leaves a lot to be desired, the movie's just so much fun that it's hard to get too down on it. It has become sort of a required Christmas classic over the last ten-years and who am I to argue with tradition? This is good for at least a rental this holiday season. Although I don't understand why Warner didn't lower this one to a $14.95 retail, it would have made a huge difference for me.