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". This 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. It is also the only sequel in the Vacation series to have spawned its own direct sequel: a 2003 made-for-TV release entitled National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure.
This film has achieved four home video releases: VHS and Laserdisc in early 1990, a bare bones DVD in 1997, 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. A steelbook Blu-ray was released in 2015.
Chicago-area resident Clark Griswold plans to have a great Christmas with his entire family. He gathers his wife Ellen, daughter Audrey, and son Rusty and drives out to the country to find a tree. After walking through the snow for hours, Clark picks out the largest tree he can find. Realizing too late that they did not bring any tools to cut the tree down, they are forced to uproot it instead, before driving home with the tree strapped to the roof of their car.
Soon after, both Clark's and Ellen's parents arrive for Christmas, but their bickering quickly begins to annoy the family. Clark, however, maintains a positive attitude, determined to have a "fun 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 citywide power shortage and create chaos for Clark's yuppie neighbors, Todd and Margo. While standing on the front lawn admiring the lights, Clark is shocked to see Ellen's redneck cousin Catherine and her husband Eddie, as they arrive unannounced with their children, Rocky and Ruby Sue, and their Rottweiler dog, Snot. Eddie later admits that they are living in the RV they arrived in, as he is broke and has been forced to sell his home and acreage. Clark offers to buy gifts for Eddie's kids so they can still enjoy Christmas. Soon afterward, Clark's senile Aunt Bethany and grumpy Uncle Lewis arrive as well.
Clark begins to wonder why his boss Frank Shirley has not given him his yearly bonus, which he desperately needs to replace an advance payment he has made to install a swimming pool for the coming summer. After a disastrous Christmas Eve dinner, along with Bethany's cat getting electrocuted and Uncle Lewis accidentally burning down the Christmas tree while lighting his cigar, he finally receives an envelope from a company messenger, who had failed to deliver 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, request that he be delivered to the house, wrapped in a bow, so Clark can insult him to his face.
Eddie takes the request literally, drives to Frank's mansion, and kidnaps him. Frank admits to having cancelled the Christmas bonuses, and Clark chastises him for doing so. Meanwhile, Frank's wife, Helen, 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 SWAT leader, both of whom scold him for his decision to scrap the bonuses, and he decides to reinstate them (with Clark getting a bonus equal to last year's amount, plus 20% as compensation).
The family heads outside when Rocky and Ruby Sue believe they see Santa Claus in the distance. Clark tells them it is actually the Christmas Star and that he finally realizes what the holiday means to him. Uncle Lewis says the light is coming from the sewage treatment plant; reminding Clark that Eddie had been dumping his RV sewage into the nearby storm drain. Before Clark can stop him, Uncle Lewis tosses a match used to light his cigar into the drain, triggering an explosion. The explosion sends a Santa's sleigh decoration flying into the sky. Aunt Bethany starts singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and everyone joins in as the flaming decoration flies into the distance. The entire family and the SWAT team members then celebrate inside the house, while Clark and Ellen happily share a Christmas kiss, and Clark stands outside satisfied that he provided a great Christmas for his family.
- Chevy Chase as Clark W. "Sparky" Griswold Jr., the patriarch of the Griswold family. Perpetually optimistic, and sometimes in denial, he is nonetheless passionate about and dedicated to putting on the perfect family holiday.
- Beverly D'Angelo as Ellen Griswold, Clark's wife. She does not share her husband's outlook but still supports him in his Christmas endeavor.
- Juliette Lewis as Audrey Griswold, Clark and Ellen's daughter. She was previously portrayed by Dana Barron and Dana Hill in the last two films. Audrey hates the entire idea of the big family Christmas, especially when it affects her social life.
- Johnny Galecki as Russ Griswold, Clark and Ellen's son. He was previously portrayed by Anthony Michael Hall and Jason Lively in the last two films. Russ supports his father but is greatly annoyed by his relatives.
- John Randolph as Clark Griswold Sr., Clark's father.
- Diane Ladd as Nora Griswold, Clark's mother.
- E.G. Marshall as Art Smith, Ellen's father.
- Doris Roberts as Frances Smith, Ellen's mother.
- Miriam Flynn as Catherine Johnson, Ellen's cousin.
- Randy Quaid as Eddie Johnson, Catherine's husband and the patriarch of the white-trash side of the family. He comes to town unannounced and uninvited.
- Cody Burger as Rocky Johnson, Eddie and Catherine's son.
- Ellen Hamilton Latzen as Ruby Sue Johnson, Eddie and Catherine's daughter.
- William Hickey as Lewis, Clark's aged uncle and the husband of Bethany. He wears a wig and smokes cigars.
- Mae Questel as Bethany, Clark's 80-year-old senile aunt and the wife of Lewis.
- Sam McMurray as Bill, Clark's co-worker and best friend at work.
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Margo Chester, the Griswolds' yuppie neighbor who despises Clark and takes the brunt of the Griswolds' antics.
- Nicholas Guest as Todd Chester, Margo's husband who also despises Clark.
- Brian Doyle-Murray as Frank Shirley, Clark's boss. He does not remember Clark's first name and calls him different names until the final scene of the movie.
- Natalia Nogulich as Helen Shirley, Frank's wife.
- Nicolette Scorsese as Mary, a lingerie counter clerk.
- Alexander Folk as Lead SWAT Officer
- Doug Llewelyn as the voice of the Parade Announcer
Development and writing
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation originated from a short story by writer John Hughes called "Christmas '59," which was published in the December 1980 issue of National Lampoon magazine. "The studio came to me and begged for another one, and I only agreed because I had a good story to base it on," said Hughes. "But those movies have become little more than Chevy Chase vehicles." Director Chris Columbus initially was to direct the film, but due to a personality clash between him and Chase, Columbus left the film and was replaced by Chechik. Hughes eventually gave Columbus the script to Home Alone.
Principal photography began on March 27, 1989 in Summit County, Colorado, with footage shot in Silverthorne, Breckenridge, and Frisco. From there the production moved to Warner Bros. Ranch Facilities in Burbank, California, where the set of the Griswold family's house and street is located.
The film has been released on home media seven different times: VHS and Laserdisc in early 1990, a bare bones DVD in 1997, and a "Special Edition" DVD in 2003. HD DVD as well as Blu-ray editions were released in 2006. In 2009, a second Blu-ray of 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. A steelbook Blu-ray was released in 2015.
- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation at AllMovie
- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation at the TCM Movie Database
- "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". Turner Classic Movies. Turner Entertainment.
- "Straight Outta Sherman: An Interview with John Hughes". Lollipop Magazine Online.
- "Chris Columbus Directed Home Alone Instead of Christmas Vacation Because He Met Chevy Chase". Vulture.com.
- "Xmas or Bust: The Untold Story of 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation'". (22 December 2014).
- "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". afi.com. American Film Institute.
- "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) - Locations".. Baseline & All Movie Guide (2016).
- "Scene It Before: The Griswold House from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". Los Angeles. Emmis Communications (December 24, 2013).
- "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation HD DVD Review". (November 29, 2006).
- "Yule Love 'Em". (November 29, 2004).
- Durrett, Mike. "Top 10 Christmas and New Year's Comedy Movies".. About.com.
- Leo, Alex (December 16, 2012). "The 10 Funniest Christmas Movies Of All Time"..