When audiences last left the Griswold family in 1985, they had embarked upon an ambitious and well-intentioned vacation to Europe, which of course went horribly and hilariously awry. Four years later, they welcomed the entire extended family into their home for a traditional family holiday in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Filled with holiday spirit, family man and food additive engineer Clark Griswold decides to host a traditional Christmas at the home he shares with wife Ellen and children Rusty and Audrey. Unfortunately, Clark has the pesky habit of getting overly ambitious with his plans and this time is no different. First he nearly freezes his daughter while they are in the woods selecting a Paul Bunyan-sized tree. Then he sets out to cover every square inch of him home with Christmas lights (only to find, of course, that they aren’t working.)
Things take a turn for the worse when the extended family arrives. Besides the bickering between Clark and Ellen’s parents, they have some surprise guests from Kansas, cousin Eddy and Catherine, who pull up unannounced in a dilapidated motor home (a tenement on wheels) with their two kids and dog Snots. Senile Aunt Bethany and cantankerous Uncle Lewis round out the group. Eddie informs Clark that he cannot afford Christmas presents for the kids, Bethany wraps her cat, and a jello salad as gifts. Catherine turns the holiday bird into something completely inedible, a cat gets electrocuted, and Eddie blows up the sewer with a cigar. All in all, pretty much what you would expect from a Griswold family vacation. Surprisingly, Clark manages to handle most of this pretty well (other than a few emotional outbursts) because he has a wonderful secret to share with the family. He is going to put in a swimming pool. The only problem is that he is using his Christmas bonus to pay for it, and it should have arrived already. And if Clark can survive the stress while he waits for it, it will truly be a holiday miracle.
Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo returned in their roles of Clark and Ellen Griswold, as did Randy Quaid to reprise his role as the irrepressible Cousin Eddie, in one of the few sequels to perhaps surpass the original. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation took in almost $12 million during its opening weekend alone and has since gone on to become one of the most beloved holiday movies ever released. And once again, producer John Hughes proved that, no matter how inept you may feel you are at pulling off the perfect family vacation, Clark Griswold has you beat by a mile.
If you find yourself spending some time with the Griswald Family every holiday season, tell us about your favorite film moments in our comments section, as we fondly remember this comedy classic that just keeps on giving.