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SteelBook / 25th Anniversary Edition / Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Warner Bros. | 1989 | 97 min | Rated PG-13 | Nov 01, 2015 National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Blu-ray) Large:

Front

Back

Slip

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Video
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (32.78 Mbps)
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Audio

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
(less)


Subtitles

English SDH, French, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Note: Spanish=Latin & Castillia...

English SDH, French, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish (less)
Note: Spanish=Latin & Castillian


Discs
Blu-ray Disc
Two-disc set (1 BD-50, 1 DVD)
UV digital copy
Digital copy
DVD copy
Packaging
SteelBook, Inner print

Playback
Region free


Price
List price: .98
New from: .64 (Save 22%)
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ratings. Blu-ray rating
Video 4.0 of 5 4.0 Audio 4.0 of 5 4.0 Extras 2.1 of 5 2.1 Based on 5 user reviews
Blu-ray review
Movie 4.0 Video 4.0 of 5 4.0 Audio 4.0 of 5 4.0 Extras 2.0 of 5 2.0 Overall 4.0 of 5 5 0.5 4.0 Blu-ray user rating
Video 3.9 of 5 3.9 Audio 3.9 of 5 3.9 Extras 2.3 of 5 2.3 Overall 3.9 of 53.9 Based on 5 user ratings

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National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Blu-ray Review


Revisiting the Squirrel


Reviewed by Michael Reuben, November 6, 2015

The late John Hughes said that he only wrote sequels "under duress". Maybe it's not a coincidence that nearly all his sequels involved Christmas, a holiday so often experienced "under duress", as people are forced to feign enjoyment with family and "friends" they'd much rather avoid. The unexpected success of the Hughes-authored Home Alone spawned two sequels, Home Alone 2 and 3, for both of which Hughes wrote the scripts. Then there was the short story from the writer's days at the National Lampoon called "Christmas '59", which he pulled from a drawer when Warner Brothers came begging for yet another Vacation film featuring the Griswold clan. Released in December 1989, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation became an unlikely holiday classic and, for many, their favorite of the series.
In honor of its twenty-fifth anniversary (which was last year), and no doubt hoping to capitalize on this year's reboot/sequel/remake of the series, entitled, simply, Vacation, Warner Brothers has remastered Christmas Vacation on Blu-ray, something that fans have been requesting for years. The original Blu-ray of Christmas Vacation appeared in December 2006 during the format's infancy. It was adequate for its day, but it used a transfer originally prepared for HD broadcast and the 2003 DVD. It also featured the DVD's lossy Dolby Digital soundtrack. The new disc features an all-new transfer prepared specifically for Blu-ray and a lossless soundtrack. Christmas Vacation will never have the digital sheen of a film shot today, but now it looks and sounds as good as it did in a first-run theater in 1989.


Hughes called the Vacation movies "a Chevy Chase vehicle", but there's nothing wrong with that. In his prime, Chase was a gifted physical comedian who had the rare ability to pivot from silly to serious (and back again) within the space of a single sentence. As always, Chase's pater familias, Clark Griswold, is ably supported—"enabled" might be more accurate—by his loyal wife Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), while daughter Audrey and son Rusty roll their eyes at dad's latest folly. In Christmas Vacation, the children are played by a young Juliette Lewis (not yet the angry Mallory of Natural Born Killers) and an even younger Johnny Galecki (already honing his timing for The Big Bang Theory).
To ensure plenty of Yuletide family conflict, director Jeremiah Chechik surrounds the Griswold clan with a full complement of obnoxious relatives portrayed by a stellar cast of character actors. Clark's parents are played by John Randolph (Prizzi's Honor) and Diane Ladd (Wild at Heart), and Ellen's parents by Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond) and E.G. Marshall (Creepshow). Making a running joke of the phrase "we have plenty of room", Randy Quaid's Cousin Eddie shows up midway through the film with wife Cathrine (Miram Flynn) and two of their kids, driving an RV that Clark dubs a "tenement on wheels".
The two cherries on the Griswold Christmas sundae are the aged Uncle Lewis and Aunt Bethany, who arrive for Christmas Eve dinner and bring whole new levels of stress and chaos. Lewis is played by William Hickey, a specialist in eccentricity (and another veteran of Prizzi's Honor), while the gloriously deranged Bethany is brought to life by Mae Questel, the voice of Betty Boop herself. Add in a cat overly curious about electrical wiring, a dog with a sinus condition, and a stealthy but agile squirrel, and you have what Clark Griswold calls "the hap hap happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fing Kaye!!!"
Clark is, by that point, seriously crazed, but it's not entirely the family's fault. Like so many people at the holidays, Clark has worked himself to a fever pitch trying to live up to an image of the perfect Christmas. He's dragged the family through snow-covered fields to harvest a tree that's far too big for the house. He's decorated the place with 25,000 lights (but forgotten to plug the entire mess into a working outlet). And he's pre-spent his Christmas bonus on the deposit for a swimming pool that will be his surprise gift to the family, only to fret when the bonus doesn't arrive. Clark's delayed bonus, with the attendant drama, becomes the spine of Christmas Vacation's narrative, on which Hughes's script hangs all manner of family conflict, slapstick cliché and, yes, even a few sentimental tugs at the heart. It also leads to a suitably cataclysmic climax involving Clark's Scrooge-like boss (Brian Doyle-Murray), his wife (Natalija Nogulich) and a SWAT team.
Ever the comedy craftsman, Hughes understood that, for Christmas Vacation to work, it needed a few characters who were even worse than anyone in the extended Griswold clan. That unenviable task falls to the couple next door, Todd and Margo Chester, who commit the cardinal sin (within the world that Hughes has constructed) of not having a family Christmas. For that offense, they are repeatedly punished, in each case by some ricochet from Clark Griswold's goofy activities. It takes several viewings of Christmas Vacation to realize just how skillfully Nicholas Guest and Julia Louis-Dreyfus enact these small but critical roles. You're not sure why, but from the moment they appear, you know they deserve whatever happens to them.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Blu-ray, Video Quality

  4.0 of 5

Specifically for this new 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray release of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Warner Home Video had a new interpositive made at YCM Laboratories. This IP was then scanned at 2k by Warner's Motion Picture Imaging. Unlike the 2006 disc, which occupied a BD-25, this one arrives on a BD-50. Continuing Warner's promise to abandon low bitrates, the new Blu-ray of Christmas Vacation has been mastered with an average rate of 32.87 Mbps (as compared to 18.51 Mbps for the earlier disc).
Having now watched the new Christmas Vacation in its entirety and spent some time flipping back and forth between the new Blu-ray and the old one, I am convinced that the new Blu-ray represents a substantial upgrade and that the larger your screen, the more noticeable the improvement. Anyone expecting that Thomas Ackerman's (Beetlejuice) cinematography will magically acquire the pop and snap of modern digital photography will be disappointed. Christmas Vacation still looks like a 1989 project originated on 35mm film and frequently lit for a soft, dark appearance to distinguish it from the harsh and contrast-y look of a TV sitcom (a common approach in that era). However, thanks to advances in scanning technology and color-correction software in the last dozen years, the image is now rock-steady, and the film's grain pattern has been rendered tightly and naturally. There is a definite increase in fine detail that may not leap out if one merely compares single frames from the two discs, but is immediately noticeable in the moving image; the effect is like having a layer of haze wiped away so that the image suddenly becomes clearer and deeper and each element in the frame is more distinct. Just to pick an example, one is more aware of the tears in Clark's eyes, after his 25,000 lights have finally illuminated (and just before he encounters Eddie) and of the beard stubble on his face, after a long and frustrating day.
Because Christmas Vacation was scanned from an IP, the film's color palette did not have to be rebuilt from scratch, as would be the case if the scan had been done from negative. However, in direct comparison, the old disc reveals a magenta push that has been eliminated in the remaster, yielding more realistic fleshtones and a colder appearance to the snows around the Griswold home, in the pine forests during the opening sequence and in the sledding sequence. I cannot say whether this shift was created by YCM in striking the IP or by MPI after consulting some reference such as an answer print (or perhaps by a combination of the two), but the color balance is improved on the new disc. The new presentation is also darker in numerous scenes, which is typical of newer transfers that don't have boosted contrast, as was common in the DVD era.
The framing on the new disc is slightly tighter on all four sides. This is consistent with many remasters we are seeing, as compared to their predecessors created during the DVD era, when telecine colorists tended to undermatte transfers to expose additional image that could compensate for overscan. With today's display devices, transfer technicians are more likely to strive for fidelity to the source.
In sum, on the image front, the new Christmas Vacation delivers exactly what fans have been requesting. For some owners of the existing disc, the difference may not be sufficiently dramatic to warrant the so-called "double dip", but certainly for any new purchaser, this is the only version worth considering.


National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Blu-ray, Audio Quality

  4.0 of 5

Christmas Vacation was released in Dolby Stereo, and Warner has preserved the original audio format but encoded it in lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0. Some posters at Blu-ray.com have questioned why the soundtrack was not "remastered" in 5.1, and the answer is that remixing a soundtrack is not "remastering". It's an alteration to the film and frequently not an improvement. The goal of a proper remastering should be to approximate as closely as possible the original theatrical experience, and Warner has done that with this Blu-ray's audio format. Given the variety of DSP modes available on even low-cost receivers, viewers who need to have all of their speakers engaged should have no trouble doing so.
Besides, the new encoding of Christmas Vacation's soundtrack offers significant improvement over the anemic DD 2.0 (at 192 kbps) on the previous Blu-ray. Background details, such as family members chattering elsewhere in the house, are now clearly audible. The catastrophes that punctuate the holiday, many of which involve breakage of one sort or another, have a new presence and authority. The film's finale, which involves a full-on police assault, is considerably more invasive and threatening in this presentation. The musical selections, which include the "Christmas Vacation" theme performed by Mavis Staples and "Mele Kalikimaka" performed by Bing Crosby, are richer and warmer in tonality. The entire experience is more involving and enjoyable.


National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation

  4.0 of 5

For years now, posters at Blu-ray.com and elsewhere have been urging studios to revisit early catalog efforts like Christmas Vacation and, as the saying goes, "do them right". Ironically, though, no sooner was the remastered Christmas Vacation formally announced than complaints began to appear about the lack of any major new extras and, at the extreme, the very fact that Christmas Vacation was being revisited at all when so many other titles have yet to see a first release. From where I sit, such objections miss the point. A lot of titles were rushed out the door in Blu-ray's early days in a form that was far below the level of quality of which the format is capable. A perennial like Christmas Vacation is an ideal candidate for remastering, because each year provides another opportunity to re-promote it. Warner has "done it right" by focusing on the essence of Blu-ray, which is picture and sound. It's now up to the enthusiast community to help prove, by voting with their wallets, that such efforts can be profitable so that more of them will be funded. Highly recommended.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: Other Editions


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Christmas with the Kranks

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National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Blu-ray, News and Updates

• National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) Blu-ray: Newly Remas... - November 5, 2015

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation via a 25th Anniversary Edition combo pack that features a newly remastered presentation of the film. The comedy classic stars Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, Julia Louis-Dreyfus,...


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