Movie Review: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo & Randy Quaid

Image Source: New Times San Luis Obispo

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Distributor: Warner Bros.
Production Company: Hughes Entertainment
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Producers: John Hughes & Tom Jacobson
Scriptwriter: John Hughes
Main Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo & Randy Quaid
Released: December 1 1989
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Certificate: 12A

The third outing in the Vacation series following National Lampoon’s Vacation and National Lampoon’s European Vacation, the latest adventure of the Griswolds sees them prepare for Christmas. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a festive favourite amongst many, and for good reason. It has plenty to offer from start to finish.


Reprising his role as Clark Griswold, Chevy Chase is again the centrepiece of the plot. As ever, his intentions are positive; to enjoy the best Christmas possible with his family. But since this is the Vacation series, his efforts only encounter one major hiccup after another. Whether it’s trying to locate a suitable Christmas tree or setting up the Xmas lights, it seems like everything is an issue. But he maintains a brave face amidst the parents of Clark and Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) coming along for the celebrations. This only adds to the tension, with the secondary victims being Clark’s neighbours. Almost every disaster sees them involved in an indirect manner, which becomes more dramatic as the film progresses.

It isn’t all bad for the Griswolds, though. After several attempts, the Christmas lights finally come on successfully, and all seems well. But then Clark spots Ellen’s cousin Catherine and her hubby Eddie. Making an unannounced appearance, they (and their children, plus their pet dog Snot) only make the circumstances even more challenging. As the Griswolds move closer to the big day, the problems compound, which I won’t spoil here. I should note that Clark’s saving grace is his Christmas bonus, which he plans to put towards a home swimming pool. But what if this doesn’t work out either? How would Clark react? If you’ve seen previous Vacation movies, it’s worth finding out for yourself.


There are plenty of hilarious moments in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The increasing severity of each disaster is humorous enough. But Chevy Chase is the highlight with his deadpan comments about relatives, along with the occasional insane rant. Eddie and Catherine add to the humour with their somewhat casual approach towards the likes of hygiene and parenthood. But the main reason why it works is because the characters are genuinely likeable. You feel for Clark every time something else goes wrong, and wish for him and the Griswolds to succeed. Nevertheless, it’s highly entertaining to see how ridiculous the mishaps become, as well as the consequences they have.

In addition, I enjoy it partly because of its timeframe. Had it been from the 1970s or earlier, things may feel somewhat old-fashioned in terms of presentation. But if it were from the 1990s or later, the visuals would probably be too polished. And that could have led to special effects on specific situations that take away from the believability of the hi-jinks. But as it’s a 1980s film, it provides warm nostalgia while remaining relevant and realistic (well, near enough).

I may not have explained this point very well; I simply mean it was the ideal time for this movie. And it’s a film that still has a large following over 30 years later. In fact, there are two versions shown on TV. One is the original, with additional swearing and sexual innuendos. The other is a more family-friendly offering, which owes to the fact that kids are in hysterics watching this.


It’s hardly flawless, and the ending is a bit cheesy. But on balance, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a joy to watch over the festive season every year. I loved it the first time I saw it, and I make sure to watch it at least once every Christmas. So, if you haven’t done so already, check this 1980s festive gem out. Christmas wouldn’t quite be the same without it.


Target Audience: Ages 10+
Content: Infrequent Strong Language, Infrequent Sexual References
Recommendation?: Yes
Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

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