Here are 8 comedy movies like NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION. For those of you who love that 1989 classic, you might find some things to enjoy in these other films that feature comic families trying to survive the holidays.
- About National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
- My Thoughts on National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
- Christmas Comedy Movies for Those Who Like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
- STOCKING STUFFER- JACK WHITEHALL: CHRISTMAS WITH MY FATHER
About National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION was based on a short story called CHRISTMAS ’58, which John Hughes had written for the National Lampoon magazine in 1979, four years before the first VACATION movie was released. Hughes also wrote other ’80s classics like THE BREAKFAST CLUB and SIXTEEN CANDLES.
The movie opened on December 1, 1989, one of only two holiday movies released that season, the other being PRANCER. It was a sizable hit, making over $70 million domestically on a $27 million budget. It is the only VACATION movie besides the original to have a positive critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
My Thoughts on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
As the holidays approach, Clark Griswold wants to have a perfect family Christmas, so he pesters his wife and children as he tries to make sure everything is in line, including the tree and house decorations.
However, things go awry quickly. His hick cousin Eddie and his family show up unplanned and start living in their camper on the Griswold property. Even worse, Clark’s employers renege on the holiday bonus he needs.
In a world full of cynical, mean-spirited comedy, the Griswolds are generally wholesome, likable characters. And it wouldn’t work were it not for the chemistry between Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, which is the glue that holds everything together. The disastrous VACATION reboot in 2015 proves the latter to be true.
This movie is filled to the brim with a remarkable set of actors. The humor works because you can see that Clark is doing everything for the sake of his family. In that regard, this might be one of the more heartwarming holiday films available.
Christmas Comedy Movies for Those Who Like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Listed below in alphabetical order are eight comedy movies for those who like NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION. Some are more similar than others, but family is one characteristic that draws them together. Sometimes, they are pretty dysfunctional families.
Interestingly, none of the films on this list are as good as NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION. A couple are rather dreadful. It’s a testament to the makers of CHRISTMAS VACATION that they avoided many of the negatives that sank the others.
1) CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL
STARRING: Julian Ovenden, Gemma Whelan and Joely Richardson
PLOT: Two sisters and their families decide to spend the Christmas holiday at their late parents’ dilapidated country house.
THOUGHTS: A very appealing cast can only do so much to carry a dull movie as dishwater. The filmmakers tend to mistake eccentricity for comedy, so we end up with a whole cadre of way too many characters acting goofy and getting into crazy situations. Still, there aren’t a whole lot of laughs. The only thing that makes it watchable is the likability of the cast.
For me, Whelan is the MVP. I’ve never seen her in a movie before, but she has a charming and comfortable presence on screen and exudes a warmth that certainly goes beyond how the character was written. I can’t say that it didn’t hold my attention, but there’s not a lot memorable here, and I don’t expect this to become a traditional Christmas viewing.
2) CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS
STARRING: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Aykroyd
PLOT: Finally alone for the holidays, Luther and Nora Krank plan to eschew the Christmas traditions and take a cruise in the Caribbean. This needs to be better with their Christmas-obsessed neighbors who are determined to win the annual street decoration competition.
THOUGHTS: We’ll make this short and sweet. Embarrassingly bad, unfunny, below sitcom-level humor, with a manipulative ending that leaves a horrible aftertaste. Career lows for all involved.
I know many people love it, but I have not been able to understand why this has become a holiday favorite. For me, it was virtually unwatchable, and I felt badly for everyone involved.
3) FOUR CHRISTMASES
STARRING: Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn and lots of people who should have known better
PLOT: When their plans for an exotic vacation fall apart, unmarried couple Brad and Kate must spend Christmas Day trudging around to a quartet of family get-togethers. While Brad counts the hours till he can escape the onslaught of crazy relatives, Kate begins to wonder about her own choices and ponders whether her family members are so crazy after all.
THOUGHTS: This is a definite contender for the Worst Film Of All Time, Featuring Multiple Oscar Winners. In a relatively short 89 minutes, it exemplifies almost every single characteristic that I think is wrong with modern American comedy, and it may have even invented a couple of new ones. A game of Taboo that takes place at Sissy Spacek’s house is the only chuckle I found here. Otherwise, I was shocked by the lack of originality and effort.
It’s almost impossible for me to believe that the talent involved here couldn’t have come up with at least a few memorable scenes or fleeting moments of genuine comedy. If you like bad slapstick comedy, vomiting, babies getting knocked in the head, streaking children, and religious mockery, this might be right up your alley.
4) HAPPIEST SEASON
STARRING: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis and Alison Brie
PLOT: Abby plans to propose to her girlfriend Harper while at Harper’s family’s annual holiday party. But she discovers her partner hasn’t come out yet to her conservative parents.
THOUGHTS: There are bright spots here and there, along with a couple of standout performances, but most characters here are highly unlikable and written as caricatures rather than living, breathing human beings.
And without giving too much away, I would have preferred Stewart to end up with another character in the film rather than Davis. It’s more the screenplay’s fault than the performance, but the character of Harper becomes increasingly insufferable, and by the end, you want Stewart to run out of the house and never look back.
I’m not overly familiar with Stewart’s work (I’ve never seen a TWILIGHT movie), but she gives the film’s best performance, even though the character has little of an arc to it. Daniel Levy from SCHITT’S CREEK provides most of the movie’s laughs, and although it’s more personality than performance, he does have a monologue toward the end that was probably the highlight of the film for me and provided the one moment of true emotion. Overall, I can’t help but see a lot of missed opportunities and failed potential.
5) HOME ALONE
STARRING: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern
PLOT: When bratty 8-year-old Kevin McCallister acts out the night before a family trip to Paris, his mother makes him sleep in the attic. After the McCallisters mistakenly leave for the airport without Kevin, he awakens to an empty house and assumes his wish to have no family has come true.
But his excitement sours when he realizes that two con men plan to rob the McCallister residence and that he alone must protect the family home.
THOUGHTS: I’m very sensitive toward overly cute and/or obnoxious kids in movies, but Culkin straddles the line perfectly. The supporting cast is filled with wonderful actors, particularly the treasure that is Catherine O’Hara. And one can’t help but leave this movie with a warm heart after the uplifting ending.
Here’s my problem: the violence. Cartoon violence can be funny and outrageous in animation, where everything and anything is possible. When you take these same antics and portray them in the real world with real people, it’s not only unfunny but very uncomfortable to watch.
Perhaps I’m overly sensitive – millions of filmgoers feel differently – but it left a sour aftertaste in my mouth and ruined the rest of the movie, most of which I thoroughly enjoyed.
6) JINGLE ALL THE WAY
STARRING: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad and Phil Hartman
PLOT: Workaholic Howard Langston wants to make things up to his son Jamie by promising to get him the hottest toy of the season, Turbo-Man. Unfortunately, it’s Christmas Eve and the toy is practically sold out.
As Langston hunts down the elusive gift, he runs into mailman Myron, another father on the same quest. With the clock winding down, Langston’s moral code is tested as he starts to learn the real meaning of Christmas.
THOUGHTS: I wanted to like this movie and made every effort. But when all is said and done, I have to remain faithful and honest to myself. This is a tortuous experience; its 90-minute run time felt longer than GONE WITH THE WIND. I will admit, there was a tiny glimmer of hope when I saw my comedy idol Harvey Korman pop up initially; however, he was gone after 12 seconds, and I was left high and dry.
Arnold is not funny, and D-list stand-up comic Sinbad matches him step by step in a genuinely unbearable performance. I wanted to smack Jake Lloyd as Schwarzenegger’s son within minutes of his first appearance. If you find stuff like this funny, more power to you, but I just don’t get it.
7) A MERRY FRIGGIN’ CHRISTMAS
STARRING: Joel McHale, Robin Williams and Candice Bergen
PLOT: Forced to spend Christmas at his parents’ house, Boyd Mitchler must hit the road with his eccentric father to get his son’s Christmas gifts before morning.
THOUGHTS: This a movie filled with unlikable characters about whom we care nothing and a completely abrupt switch in tone from the first to the second half that is not believable. I always thought McHale had the makings for a successful big-screen light comedian, and if anything works in this movie, it is him, for the most part. He does his best to hold the shards of this story together but eventually gets lost in the tidal wave of mediocrity like everyone else.
Unfortunately, Williams is pretty unbearable here – his attempts at mean-spirited comedy fall flat, and his 180-degree turn-around is mawkish. A recurring scuzzy-looking Santa who drinks bourbon and may or may not be the real deal is unnecessary and negates any possibility of this becoming a realistic family comedy.
8) SURVIVING CHRISTMAS
STARRING: Ben Affleck, James Gandolfini and Christina Applegate
PLOT: A wealthy executive has no close relationships and becomes nostalgic for his childhood home as Christmas approaches. When he visits the house and finds another family living there, he offers the residents a large sum of money to pretend they are his parents. Soon, he tests the family’s patience, and when their daughter arrives, things get increasingly tense.
THOUGHTS: Nothing is more painful than watching an actor TRY to be funny – and fail. Poor Affleck. At least he was having a good hair day. And being surrounded by more adept comedic performers doesn’t help matters, although no one, including my beloved Catherine O’Hara, manages to remain unscathed.
The romantic storyline between Affleck and Applegate is appalling. A plot line involving a young teenager’s porn addiction seems gratuitous and in poor taste. And even though I’m seemingly full of negatives, I didn’t HATE it as much as I intensely disliked it. However, wasting a comic genius like O’Hara should be grounds for cinematic assault charges.
STOCKING STUFFER- JACK WHITEHALL: CHRISTMAS WITH MY FATHER
This list makes me worthy of inclusion on the Mount Rushmore of Scrooges. I need to find a title I can genuinely get behind and recommend.
So, as an extra stocking stuffer, I’m including a title I can recommend – highly. And even though it’s a comedy special and not a motion picture, I still want to share something positive with you.
I am curious how well Whitehall is generally known among American audiences. I got to know him through his appearances on my favorite chat show, THE GRAHAM NORTON SHOW. Some of your children may have seen him in CLIFFORD, THE BIG RED DOG. His self-deprecating, British sense of humor is right up my alley, so I was pleased to find this special.
Half is simply Whitehall and his dad sitting across from each other, going down memory lane and sharing home movies. It is relatable and funny, and I could watch it on loop for a crazy amount of time. Apart from these segments, the highlight for me was an appearance by QUEER EYE with dad Michael being coached to prepare a Christmas meal. Priceless!
If you’re unfamiliar with Jack Whitehall, check out a few YouTube videos to see if you jibe with his sense of humor. If so, you likely won’t be disappointed with this special.
Can you think of other movies that remind you of NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION? Do you like any movies on my list better than I do? Comment below.
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