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National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

National Lampoon's
Christmas Vacation
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jeremiah Chechik
Produced by John Hughes
Tom Jacobson
Written by John Hughes
Starring Chevy Chase
Beverly D'Angelo
Randy Quaid
Music by Angelo Badalamenti
Cinematography Thomas E. Ackerman
Edited by Jerry Greenberg
Michael A. Stevenson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • December 1, 1989 (1989-12-01)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25 million[1]
Box office $71.3 million

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is a 1989 Christmas comedy film directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik. It is the third installment in National Lampoon's Vacation film series, and was written by John Hughes, based on his short story in National Lampoon magazine, "Christmas '59". The film stars Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo and Randy Quaid, with Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki as the Griswold children Audrey and Rusty, respectively.

Since its release in 1989, Christmas Vacation has often been labeled as a modern Christmas classic.

The film has achieved three home video releases: VHS and Laserdisc in early 1990, and a "Special Edition" DVD in 2003. In 2009, the film was released as an "Ultimate Collector's Edition." At the same time of this release, it was also released on a simple Blu-ray/DVD combo.[2][3][4]


With Christmas only a few weeks away, Chicago resident Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) decides it is time to get a Christmas tree. He gathers his wife Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), daughter Audrey (Juliette Lewis) and son Rusty (Johnny Galecki) and drives out to the country where he picks out a huge tree. Realizing too late that they didn't bring any tools to cut the tree down, they are forced to uproot it instead.

Soon after, both Clark's and Ellen's parents arrive to spend Christmas, but their bickering quickly begins to annoy the family. Clark, however, maintains a positive attitude, determined to have a "good old-fashioned family Christmas." He covers the house's entire exterior with 25,000 twinkle lights, which fail to work at first, as he has accidentally wired them through his garage's light switch. When they finally come on, they temporarily cause a city-wide power shortage and wreak havoc for Clark's Yuppie neighbors, Todd (Nicholas Guest) and Margo (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). While standing on the front lawn admiring the lights, Clark is shocked to see Ellen's cousin Catherine (Miriam Flynn) and her dense but bighearted husband Eddie Johnson (Randy Quaid), as they arrive unannounced with their children, Rocky and Ruby Sue. Eddie later admits that they are living in the RV they drove to reach Chicago, as he is broke and has been forced to sell his home. Clark offers to buy gifts for Eddie's kids, to help them have a good Christmas.

With Christmas approaching quickly, Clark begins to wonder why his boss, Frank Shirley (Brian Doyle-Murray), has not given him his yearly bonus, which he desperately needs to replace an advance payment he has made to install a swimming pool. After a disastrous Christmas Eve dinner, he finally receives an envelope from a company messenger, who had overlooked it the day before. Instead of the presumed bonus, the envelope contains a free year's membership for the Jelly of the Month Club. This prompts Clark to snap and go into a tirade about Frank, and out of anger, requests that Frank be delivered to the house so Clark can insult him to his face.

Eddie takes the request literally, drives to Frank's mansion, and forcibly brings him back. Clark is shocked at this development, but confronts Frank about the cancellation of the employees' Christmas bonuses. Meanwhile, Frank's wife calls the police, and a SWAT team storms the Griswold house and holds everyone at gunpoint. Frank decides not to press charges and explains the situation to his wife and the authorities, who both scold him for his decision to scrap the bonuses, and decides to reinstate them (with Clark getting an extra 20%).

The family goes outside, with Rocky and Ruby Sue believing they see Santa Claus in the distance. Clark tells them it's actually the Christmas Star and that he finally realizes what the holiday means to him. But Uncle Lewis (William Hickey) says the light is coming from the sewage treatment plant; Clark is reminded of an earlier incident where Eddie had been dumping sewage into a storm drain. But before he can stop him, Uncle Lewis tosses a match he had used to light his cigar aside, triggering an explosion sending him flying into the family. Lewis' wife Aunt Bethany (Mae Questel), who is utterly senile, proceeds to sing the Star Spangled Banner and the whole family and the SWAT officers join in, gazing at Clark's Santa Claus and reindeer set(which he destroyed earlier out of anger), still burning and flying into the distance. The entire Griswold family, the Shirleys and the SWAT team members then celebrate inside the house, while Clark and Ellen embrace. After Ellen goes inside, Clark looks at the sky, happily smiling toward the stars and saying: "I did it."



Box office

The movie debuted at #2 at the box-office while grossing $11,750,203 during the opening weekend, behind Back to the Future Part II. The movie eventually topped the box-office charts in its third week of release and remained #1 the following weekend. It went on to gross a total of $71,319,546 in the United States while showing in movie theaters.[5]

Critical response

At the time of the film's release, the film received mixed to positive reviews; however, over time, many have cited it as a Christmas classic. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 64% of 36 film critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.2 out of 10.[6]

Entertainment magazine Variety responded positively to the film stating, "Solid family fare with plenty of yocks, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is Chevy Chase and brood doing what they do best. Despite the title, which links it to previous pics in the rambling Vacation series, this third entry is firmly rooted at the Griswold family homestead, where Clark Griswold (Chase) is engaged in a typical over-reaching attempt to give his family a perfect, old-fashioned Christmas."[7] Rita Kempley of The Washington Post gave the film a positive review explaining that "it will prove pater-familiar to fans of the 1983 original and the European Vacation sequel. Only it's a bit more whimsical."[8]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times gave the film a mediocre review explaining that the "third look at the quintessentially middle-American Griswold family, led by Clark and the very patient Ellen is only a weary shadow of the original National Lampoon's Vacation." Maslin went on to say that "the best thing the new film does is to bring back Cousin Eddie, the wily, scene-stealing slob whose disgusting habits are a source of considerable amusement."[9] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two out of four stars saying, "The movie is curious in how close it comes to delivering on its material: Sequence after sequence seems to contain all the necessary material, to be well on the way toward a payoff, and then it somehow doesn't work."[10]


The film's musical score was composed by Angelo Badalamenti. It is the only installment of the Vacation film series not to include Lindsey Buckingham's "Holiday Road". In its place is a song entitled "Christmas Vacation" that was written for the movie by the husband-wife songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and was performed by Mavis Staples of The Staple Singers fame. The song was covered in 2007 by High School Musical star Monique Coleman for the 2007 Christmas album Disney Channel Holiday.

Despite several popular songs being present in the film, no soundtrack album was released. In 1999, bootleg copies of a "10th Anniversary Limited Edition" began to appear on Internet auction sites with the claim that Warner Brothers and RedDotNet had pressed 20,000 CD's for Six Flags Magic Mountain employees to give to customers entering the park. The discs were individually numbered out of "20,000" and were sold with most of the music featured in the film along with select cuts of dialogue. Forums on movie music sites such as SoundtrackCollector and Movie Music have declared the disc to be a bootleg put together by a fan due to its inaccuracies. For instance, the cut, "Christmas Vacation Medley" (claiming to be the work of composer Angelo Badalamenti), is really a track called, "Christmas at Carnegie Hall" from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York by composer John Williams and does not actually contain any of Badalamenti's Christmas Vacation score.


This is the only sequel in the Vacation series to have spawned its own direct sequel: a made-for-TV 2003 release entitled National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure. Randy Quaid and Miriam Flynn returned as Eddie and Catherine, along with Dana Barron again appearing as Audrey, whom she played in National Lampoon's Vacation, and Eric Idle, who played "The Bike Rider" in European Vacation reprises the role, only this time being credited as "British Man on Plane". Christmas Vacation is preceded in the Vacation series by:

Christmas Vacation is followed in the series by:

Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, and Juliette Lewis reprised their roles as the Griswolds in three Old Navy commercials which aired during the 2012 holiday season. In the second commercial, Anthony Michael Hall and Jason Lively also reprised their roles as 'Rusty' and Barron returned as Audrey.

See also

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  1. Harmetz, Ajean (December 7, 1989). "It's Fade-Out for the Cheap Film As Hollywood's Budgets Soar". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  2. "Yule Love 'Em". Entertainment Weekly. November 29, 2004. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  3. Durrett, Mike. "Top 10 Christmas and New Year's Comedy Movies". Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  4. Leo, Alex (December 16, 2012). "The 10 Funniest Christmas Movies Of All Time". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  5. "Christmas Vacation (1989)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  6. "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  7. "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". Variety. 1989. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  8. Kempley, Rita (December 1, 1989). "'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation' (PG-13)". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  9. Maslin, Janet (December 1, 1989). "Reviews/Film; On Vacation Once Again". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  10. Ebert, Roger (December 1, 1989). "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 

External links