National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While not a stellar transfer, it looked good for its age.
For the most part, sharpness was satisfying. A few soft shots emerged, but these weren’t a significant concern. Instead, the flick usually appeared concise and well-defined. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, and only a little minor edge enhancement manifested itself at times. Print flaws remained minor. A few specks and marks appeared, but these were modest.
Colors never quite excelled, but they seemed above average. The movie stuck with a largely accurate and natural palette that consistently seemed clean and concise. The hues didn’t stand out as terrific, but they were satisfying. Black levels looked quite deep and rich, while shadows seemed especially well developed. Comedies from the Eighties often suffered from a drab look that often affected those elements, but they worked nicely here. At not time did Christmas Vacation turn into a superior transfer, but it was decidedly better than most flicks of this genre and era.
As for the Dolby Surround 2.0 audio, don’t expect a great deal from this mix, as it seemed good but not special. Unsurprisingly, most of the audio emanated from the front speakers. Some decent use of directional dialogue occurred, and elements moved effectively from one channel to another. The score presented somewhat mushy stereo imaging at times. The music wasn’t monaural, but the score didn’t seem terribly well differentiated across the front. Effects mostly focused on general ambience, though they came to life moderately during some of the flick’s big slapstick scenes. The same held true for the surrounds. Those played a small role in the proceedings and became active only briefly during a few comedic pieces.
Audio quality showed its age but seemed satisfactory overall. Speech demonstrated a little edginess at times but usually appeared reasonably natural and distinctive, and I discerned no concerns connected to intelligibility. Music sounded a bit mushy but range appeared fairly solid and general clarity was usually fine. Effects made the most use of the subwoofer, as some of the big slapstick bits kicked in pretty good bass. Otherwise, those elements appeared acceptably accurate but not tremendously well reproduced. Ultimately, the soundtrack of Christmas Vacation lacked anything to make it stand out, but it worked fine for a film of this genre and this vintage.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the original DVD? Both offered virtually identical audio. Unlike most Blu-rays, this one didn’t provide a lossless option; it presented the 2.0 track also found on the DVD.
Though I suspect that the Blu-ray used the same transfer found on the prior DVD, the format’s increased resolution added life to the presentation. When compared to the DVD, the Blu-ray looked tighter and better defined. It wasn’t a huge improvement, but it showed improvements.
For this “Ultimate Collector’s Edition”, we get the same disc-based extras as the DVD along with some added goodies in the box. In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, we get an audio commentary from actors Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid, Miriam Flynn, and Johnny Galecki plus director Jeremiah Chechik and producer Matty Simmons. All six of them sit together for their running, screen-specific track. Putting all of them in one place gives their chat a nicely rollicking and lively tone, but it doesn’t mean we learn much about the movie.
The actors toss in occasional insights about their characters – mostly as D’Angelo relates struggles related to her hair – and Chechik adds the greatest level of detail via some production anecdotes. D’Angelo also gives us the most tantalizing teaser when she states that at the start of each Vacation flick, she and Chevy Chase love each other, but they come to hate each other by the end of production. Unfortunately, she doesn’t expand on this nugget. Mostly the participants watch the movie and laugh; that tendency becomes especially heavy during the film’s second half, and gaps become more substantial during that period as well. The track remains moderately entertaining, mostly because the folks seem to enjoy themselves, but you won’t learn much about the production.
When we head to the “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” exclusives, we find items with the expected holiday theme. We find instant snow powder, a small Santa’s cap with a moose on it, four coasters with movie photos/quotes on them, and a button that reads “I survived a Griswold family Christmas”. Those also come with the DVD UCE; the Blu-ray tosses in a very small moose mug figurine. None of these are particularly impressive.
I don’t think Christmas Vacation offers the worst holiday movie I’ve seen, but it seems pretty blah nonetheless. It just rehashes the same old formula and doesn’t do anything particularly amusing or noteworthy. The Blu-ray offers good picture and audio with some minor extras. This is a competent release for a weak flick.
Note that this “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” includes the same Blu-ray that can be purchased on its own. It retails for $49.99, so the UCE adds $21 for its non-disc-based materials. That’s an awful lot of money for very little added content. If you like want to own this movie on Blu-ray, stick with the standard release; the UCE isn’t worth the extra money.
To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION