Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is the father everyone wants their best friend to have. He’s a man of tradition who takes great pride in taking his family on the occasional vacation. First off, it was a cross-country road trip to Wally World in National Lampoon’s Vacation. The sequel, European Vacation saw the Griswold’s conquer the other side of the Atlantic. Now it’s Christmas and the family is staying closer to home, opting for the conventional path of having the entire extended family come to them. Heart-warming or horror – that depends on how much you like hanging with your entire family. For Clark, it doesn’t matter because he’ll make everything work out somehow. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the ultimate family holiday film, playing on both the heart strings and the horror to capture a genuine Christmas spirit.
Grandmas, grandpas, mother-in-laws, father-in-laws, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles – they’re all on their way to the Griswold home to celebrate an old-fashioned Griswold family Christmas. Clark is an everyman who struggles to hold on to tradition. All he wants is for his family to experience love, even if they don’t realize its importance. His teenaged children Rusty (Johnny Galecki) and Audrey (Juliette Lewis) are growing up quickly and are more concerned with cool-factor rather than quality family time. Still, Clark marches on. His dreams are selfless. Even if the result is awkward, his intentions are always in the right place. For example, it’s not good enough to head down to the Wal-mart parking lot to pick out a cheap Christmas tree. Instead Clark takes his family on a day’s drive out into the bush to bring home a tree from the wild.
Clark’s passion carries the film. More often than not, his big ideas lead to disaster but Clark just keeps on going. His heart is always in the right place (except when he’s cussing someone out in a profanity-laden diatribe), even if his head isn’t. Clark’s motivations are so darned honourable that he’s the ultimate dad you don’t want to have because you don’t have to deal with the headaches, but you wish your friends had fathers like him.
Christmas Vacation kicks off at a fast comedic pace and it never lets up until a slightly contrived ending. And when things do threaten to slow down Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and his sad existence comes along to spice things up. While Clark is a victim to circumstance, Eddie is just plain dumb. But when you’re watching a comedy, someone who naturally makes situations more complicated than they need to be, that’s fine with me. It makes for good material.
Scene after scene, Christmas Vacation is so consistently hilarious, it brings a lot of otherwise decent comedies down a level when compared next to it. But the comedy wouldn’t be nearly as good or memorable if it weren’t for the heart of Clark Griswold. Merry Christmas, Griswold family. It’s the least I can offer since you make mine a little happier every year.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Trailer