The Twenty-Third Day of Christmas: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

By: Kimbit

Christmas Vacation is definitely a Christmas comedy classic. The mostly slapstick humour and hectic family atmosphere is what makes this movie funny and memorable.

clark griswold.jpgIt’s the only “Vacation” movie where the Griswold’s don’t go anywhere.

Christmas Vacation tells the story of the Griswold family Christmas where nothing goes as planned and pretty much everyone is scared of a squirrel in the house. The whole movie is a string of bad luck and unfortunate events keeping in line with the Vacation franchise. It is one of those movies where you end up cringing and covering your eyes because you know something terrible is about to happen and you just can’t watch. Or maybe that’s just me.

Christmas Vacation is unique in the sense that it is the only (as far as I’m aware) live action Christmas movie that is a sequel to other non-Christmas movies. Christmas Vacation is part of the Vacation franchise and is actually the 3rd movie of 4 featuring the bad luck prone Griswold’s. This movie was also writer John Hughes’ first of 4 Christmas movies he would eventually write and the last “Vacation” movie he would write.

christmas-vacation-xmas-reelThe movie was based on a short story that John Hughes wrote for Nation Lampoon called
Christmas 59 
which is referenced when Clark is stuck in the attic.

Christmas Vacation did well at the box office when it was released; landing in the top 5 PG-13 rated films for that year. Interestingly, Christmas Vacation is the most successful (not accounting for inflation) in the Vacation franchise beating out both the original and its remake. It is also the highest rated on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) out all of the movies in the Vacation franchise – something that doesn’t happen a lot with sequels.

Weirdly enough I don’t think I had ever watched Christmas Vacation from beginning to end in a complete sitting until this year. It was always one of those movies I’d catch half of on TV, or would be on in the background in someone’s home. I knew the entire premise and a good majority of the gags, but there was a lot of in between plot I never had truly seen. It was nice to finally sit down and watch this movie but I had a hard time getting through it.

christmas-vacation-quotesThis scene was brutal for me.

I am one of those people that have grown up to cringe at slapstick comedy. It doesn’t mean I cannot still find it funny but usually I just want to close my eyes because it’s so obvious that the situation is going to go badly and I just don’t want to see it unfold. When I was a kid this wasn’t a problem so any movie that does this that I originally watched as a kid doesn’t seem to bother me (Jingle All the Way for example has a ton of this type of comedy). Christmas Vacation also made me laugh as well as cringe so it still did its job!

Much like how I had avoided Elf because of not always being on the Will Ferrell train, I was never drawn to Christmas Vacation because I don’t really like Chevy Chase. I didn’t grow up on any of his movies, and I’ve actually seen very few of his movies so to be fair I’m not judging him on a wide spectrum of content. I’m sure that a lot of his stuff is hilarious and I know that he was pretty big on Saturday Night Live (SNL) but hearing about his behaviour and attitude outside of his movies and TV shows in the last few years has really turned me off of him.

Now that I have actually sat down and watched Christmas Vacation I know it was wrong of me to avoid it because of Chevy Chase. The story is clever and relatable, the whole cast is does a great job (if not underused) and it is funny! I wish there could have been more of Doris Roberts who I just love and more of the in-laws in general. I may have cringed through the entire movie but I can certainly see how this movie has become a classic.

doris-robertsShe was the only reason to watch Everyone Loves Raymond.

My final thought on this movie though is that fact that unlike many movies throughout this blog, Christmas Vacation has less of the heartwarming lessons learned vibe. While there are some family values shoved in there and his boss learns his lesson, the Griswold’s didn’t really do anything wrong that they needed to grow from (they learned maybe to tone it down a bit for next year). It puts a twist on the usual formula for a Christmas movie yet still is a Christmas favourite for many.

What do you think about Christmas Vacation? Don’t agree with my thoughts? Let us know in the comments!





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