Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2 – Uncle Eddie’s Island Adventure

Film: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2 – Uncle Eddie’s Island Adventure

Director: Nick Macris

Starring: Randy Quaid, Ed Asner

Written by: Matty Simmons


This Christmas, let us honor the holiday season by celebrating National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2, one of its most cherished stories of all time.  Wait, I got that wrong – people HATE this film.  Many roads can bring a person to the unbridled hatred of this film: sequel abuse, the absence of Chevy Chase, its TV movie production value, a plot ripped almost directly from Gilligan’s Island, or the awkward transition of supporting characters from Christmas Vacation 1 into leads carrying an entire film.  One thing is certain, though; no matter how one comes to hate this titan of Bizarro cinema, hatred is almost inevitable.

But I refuse.  No matter how much the rest of the film may stink, there is one man who strides boldly forth and turns every scene into a masterpiece – master thespian (and recent outlaw conspiracy theorist) Randy Quaid.  As he brings Clark Griswold’s Cousin Eddie into the limelight, The Great Quaid pulls out all the stops in his quest to, well, cash a paycheck.  But also to be a comedic genius!

In Christmas Vacation 2, The Great Quaid is a man unafraid to spend an entire movie scampering about a deserted island clad in uncomfortably tight, uncomfortably white shorts.  He’s not afraid to come out second best to a nuclear-enhanced monkey; he knows he’s better than that damn ape.  He’s man enough to be both Skipper and Gilligan, and he can bring nature to its rightful place beneath his bootheel even while stumbling over that same bootheel.  Hot faux-Hawaiian babes stand no chance against his masculine wiles, but The Great Quaid chooses to keeps his torrential manliness in check and remains faithful to his movie family, magnanimously allowing his son and uncle to perv out over the babe instead.  He can build a mansion fit for royalty out of some bamboo, palm leaves, and a boar’s carcass.  And best of all, Cousin Eddie goes through this entire movie without ever soiling his pristine white shorts.

If this film is any indication of his brilliance, I think that The Great Quaid’s recent foray into paranoid insanity is all part of a master plan.  History may one day praise this beady-eyed and disheveled vagabond as the Socrates of our time.  Quaid bless us, everyone!

The Designer’s Drugs: Freezepop – Imaginary Friends

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Freezepop – Imaginary Friends

Anno: 2010

Not every band that makes a name in inside jokes and idiosyncrasy survives the switch to seriousness, but in Freezepop’s case, the change is not only survived but is illuminating.  The first release from the newly remodeled synthpop band shows a change in style to accompany its changes in lineup.  What Imaginary Friends sounds like more than anything is an electronic band busting out high-aerobic singles in its 80s heyday.  Yet despite the fact that it’s on par with the best music of that era, labeling this album as a retro homage or ironic nostalgia would really be shortchanging the quality work that went into its making.

Along with the band’s jettisoning of the rock direction which it flirted with previously, the wry observations and quirky pop culture references that have dotted Liz Enthusiasm’s vocals over the years have largely disappeared.  On the brilliantly synthed up “Lose that Boy,” Enthusiasm’s love advice is the closest the album comes to overt goofiness, but it’s nowhere near her established sense of whimsical self-effacement (see: “Brainpower”).  Instead, the overall impression of Imaginary Friends is that it is a very earnest body of work, easily Freezepop’s most straightforward and concise album to date.  Unless one is hopelessly hung up on references to PBR, Love Ninjas, Game Boys, and the actors of Growing Pains, this is in no way a bad thing.

For my money, the best track on Imaginary Friends is “Special Effects,” an electrojuggernaut that barely has time to slow down for a piano-tinged interlude.  “Natural Causes,” which is a little slower and darker, would be my runner-up.  The album’s against the grain track is its last, “House of Mirrors,” a ballad which plays like a stately version of “Swimming Pool” from the previous album.  And face-forward tracks like “Doppelganger” and “Magnetic” have bouncy hooks that crawl into the listener’s brain and take over.

Though the narrower scope and relative seriousness of Imaginary Friends don’t need to set a permanent precedent, in this case they work out to Freezepop’s advantage.  This is a great work of well-assembled electropop which proves that the new version of Freezepop is just as formidable and enduring as its prior incarnation.