The Griswold family consists of: the father, Clark, portrayed by two time Emmy winner Chevy Chase (Spies Like Us); the mother, Ellen, played by Golden Globe nominee Beverly D’ Angelo (Coal Miner’s Daughter); the daughter, Audrey, a role acted by Oscar nominee Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear); and the son, Rusty, who is played by Golden Globe nominee Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory). At the start of the film the Griswolds are driving to pick up a Christmas tree. They are not headed to a lot to purchase the tree. Clark Griswold is the type of man, who believes in tradition. He’s taking his family into the woods, where they will find a tree to chop down. The only problem they encounter, after walking though the snow in freezing cold weather, is that Clark forgot to bring an axe. This is only the start of the problems the hapless, albeit well meaning, Clark encounters throughout the film.
The Griswolds arrive back home and set up the tree, just in time for the first of their guests to arrive. The Griswold’s house is going to be a crowded one: Clark’s parents, Clark, Sr. (John Randolph), and his mother Nora played by BAFTA and Golden Globe winner Diane Ladd (Alice Doesn’t Love Here Anymore) are staying for the holidays. Furthermore, Ellen’s parents, her father, Art, portrayed by two time Emmy winner E.G. Marshall (The Defenders), and mother, Francis, a role acted by five time Emmy winner Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond) are also visiting. If that were not enough, Cousin Eddie, played by Golden Globe winner Randy Quaid (LBJ: The Early Years), his wife Catherine (Miriam Flynn), and their two children Rocky (Cody Burger) and Ruby Sue (Ellen Latzen), show up uninvited. In the spirit of the holiday season they are not turned away.
Clark, for the most part, is happy to have the family with him. Even though his mind is on other things, he’s still attempting to play a gracious host, who attempts to give everyone a nice Christmas. The thing Clark’s mind is on, is the Christmas bonus check he is waiting to receive from his boss, Mr. Shirley, portrayed by three time Emmy nominee, prolific character actor, Brian Doyle-Murray. Clark has, unbeknownst to his family, put a down payment on a new swimming pool. Getting the money, will be easier said than done, and in typical Clark Griswold fashion, there are a lot of zany moments that take place before the film reaches its conclusion.
Trivia buffs take note: The film marked the final appearance of Mae Questel, who played the role of Bethany in the film. Questel’s career began in 1930, when she voiced the character of Betty Boop. During the film Clark and Eddie drink from Wally World mugs, a clear reference to the first film in the franchise. This is the only one of the ‘Vacation’ movies not to feature the song “Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham, who is best known as one of the vocalists and lead guitarist for the Grammy award winning band “Fleetwood Mac.” In addition to Chevy Chase, three other “Saturday Night Live” alumni have roles in the film: Golden Globe winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld); Randy Quaid; and Brian Doyle-Murray. BAFTA winner Chris Columbus (The Help) was originally going to direct the film, but he and Chevy Chase didn’t get along, so he dropped out before filming began.
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” was directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik (Benny & Joon). The screenplay was written by John Hughes (Planes, Trains & Automobiles). The screenplay was based on a short story Hughes wrote called “Christmas 59” which was published in the December 1980 issue of National Lampoon magazine. The film premiered in Australia on November 30, 1989. The comedy has a runtime of 97 minutes. The third in the series, “Christmas Vacation” was preceded by “Vacation” in 1983 and “European Vacation” in 1985, and was then followed by “Vegas Vacation” in 1997.
I hadn’t seen “Christmas Vacation” in a number of years. I decided to rewatch it, because I was looking for something that was both funny and Christmas themed. If you’ve seen one of or all of the various iterations of the Grinch, and have had your fill of the romantic themed comedies that take place during Christmas, this should make for a fun rewatch or first time viewing.