National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

national lampoons christmas vacation poster 1989 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Holiday fun with characters everyone can identify with


Movie Info

Movie Name: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Studio: Warner Bros.

Genre(s): Comedy/Family/Seasonal

Release Date(s): December 1, 1989

MPAA Rating: PG-13

national lampoons christmas vacation house lights

Light up the holidays with the Griswolds

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) has a goal: the best Christmas ever for his family. He’s planning a pool for the family as soon as his boss (Brian Doyle-Murray) comes through with his bonus, and he’s going to have the best light display in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, his whole family is coming for Christmas and when his wife’s brother Randy shows up with his family, Christmas is going to get a whole lot more crowded at the Griswold house. Will the family survive or will they end up killing each other before Christmas morning?

Directed by Jeremiah Chechik, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a family holiday comedy. Following National Lampoon’s European Vacation in 1985, the movie was written by John Hughes and based on his short National Lampoon 1980 story “Christmas ’59”.  The movie was met with positive reviews and a strong box office return. 

I watched Vacation over and over again growing up (we had a video copy taped off of HBO).  We saw European Vacation in the theater (probably the first PG-13 movie I went to)…then our family oddly skipped Christmas Vacation until it was on video.  The film is fun and now is a holiday staple.

national lampoons christmas vacation cousin eddie shitter was full randy quaid

S*@!er was full!

Christmas Vacation works because of Chevy Chase’s pure glee in the holiday experience. He loves Christmas and shows it in every shot. Like for many people, the holidays are one of the best times of the year, and they are also one of the most frustrating. His attempts to make the best holiday continuously backfires for him and the control is taken from him. It is this frustration that people can identify with. If you don’t know a Clark Griswold, you might be a Clark Griswold.

The movie also has a great supporting cast. Beverly DAngelo continues to be a nice balance to Chase’s exasperation. Clarks children were de-aged this time with Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis as his sarcastic children. The in-laws of John Randolph and Diane Ladd (as Clarks parents) and E. G. Marshall and Doris Roberts (as Ellens parents). You also have to love the yuppie neighbors Todd and Margo played by Nicholas Guest and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.  The scene stealer of course is Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid)…he steals every scene…and commentary reveals that is a water-bottle shoved in his pants…you know the scene.

national lampoons christmas vacation police raid freeze chevy chase beverly dangelo

To be honest, whose Christmas doesn’t end like this…

The movie has a classic look.  It has all the magic and twinkles of a holiday film mixed with slapstick and some crude humor at points.  The dinner table, the Christmas tree, and of course the lights add to Clark’s zeal and help built the Christmas spirit within the film (though I never was a big fan of the sledding scene).

National Lampoons Christmas Vacation has become a Christmas institution along with other modern classics like Home Alone. Now, as families gather for the holiday, they also gather around and watch the Griswolds celebrate the season…something that Clark would have loved.  The movie was followed by Vegas Vacation  in 1997 and a made-for-TV sequel to Christmas Vacation in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure in 2003.

Related Links:

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985)

Vegas Vacation (1997)

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2:  Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure (2003)

Vacation (2015)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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