Seasons greetings! This week’s pick is a comedy holiday classic from the successful National Lampoon’s Vacation series. Chevy Chase stars as Clark W. Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
This third installment of the series follows the Griswolds and Clark’s quest for the best family Christmas. The film’s opening sequence follows the family into the wilderness in the ultimate quest for the perfect Christmas tree. As Clark and the fam enter a clearing a beam of light falls on the perfect tree.
Like the two previous films, Clark’s expectations exceed the rest of the family’s and he is completely oblivious to everything. As they gather around the tree, Rusty asks if Clark brought a saw. Clark’s toothy smile turns to an immediate frown as he realizes his first mistake. In the last scene the tree is strapped to the roof of the car, completely torn from the ground, roots and all. Ridiculous yet brilliant.
As the in-laws and assorted family members arrive at Clark’s home for Christmas, things begin to go horribly awry, especially when cousin Eddie (Quaid) and his family arrive unexpectedly. Greatest line ever when Eddie asks Clark if he’s surprised to see him “Eddie if I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am right now.”
Christmas Vacation quickly became a holiday classic in the tradition of modern classics like A Christmas Story, and others like Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol; It’s A Wonderful Life, and Scrooged. The film is chock full of classic scenes like when Clark and Rusty unravel a massive knot of over two hundred and fifty Christmas lights. When the lights are plugged in, it’s like God’s flashlight. It’s so powerful that the electric company must switch over to an auxiliary nuclear reactor to handle the Griswold light display.
My favorite part in the film is when Clark’s Aunt Bethany (Mae Questel) and Uncle Lewis (Hickey) arrive on Christmas Eve. Clark receives a present that is his senile Aunt’s cat that has been wrapped up as a gift. The cat is released and more hilariousness ensues as Clark’s hopes for a wonderful Christmas quickly vanish.
Some of the most quotable lines in the film include Eddie’s polka fueled rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in which he empties out the RV septic tank into the storm sewer. Clark’s yuppie neighbor leaves his front door only to be horrified by the sight of Eddie in his pajamas and bathrobe as he yells “Merry Christmas. The shitter was full.” It’s almost sad how Randy Quaid has actually turned into Eddie while watching the film.
Christmas Vacation was a smash hit when it hit theaters on December 1, 1989 eventually surpassing Back to the Future: Part II, which held for several weeks at the box office. Christmas Vacation debuted on December 19th 2007 on Turner Classic Movies and has also had successful runs in England and Australia where it airs every year at Christmas with high ratings.
Christmas Vacation has always been a cult classic with my family and I and we always look forward to watching it every year. It has always been one of my favorite holiday films and it continues to make me laugh every time I watch it. So string up the lights, empty the shitter, grab the Tylenol and wash it down with some eggnog.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is available on DVD and Blu-Ray disc through Warner Bros. Home Video and can be rented through Netflix.