22 Dec 2017

CHRISTMAS MOVIES RULES - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

 Film genres have formulas and rules, but how well do Christmas films follow their formula?

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989), the third film in the vacation is a family home christmas story.

The following may contain spoilers for

"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" (1989)


"I got the daughter in the clinic getting cured off the Wild Turkey. The older boy, bless his soul, is preparing for his career." ~ Cousin Eddie.
"College?" ~ Clark Griswold.
"Carnival." ~ Cousin Eddie.

  • 1a.  Someone Who Hates Christmas - Possibly the neighbours.
  • 1b.  Someone Who Inflicts Christmas Cheer on Others - The parents, especially Clark.
  • 1c.  Precocious Kids - Rusty Griswold, a little.
  • 1d.  A Bullied Kid - No bullied kid.
  • 1e.  Silver-haired jovial old person - Clark's moment. 
  • 1f.  Someone with a secret - No one with a secret.
  • 1g.  Stressed Young Female - None.  Except possibly the neighbour.
  • 1h.  The Single - Audrey Griswold, as a teen girl character mentions boys at least once.
  • 1i.  Someone Career Obsessed - Clark, a little.
  • 1j.  Grumpy Old (usually) Man - Ellen's parents.
  • 1k.  Sassy Old (usually) Woman - At times Bethany, mostly due to her comedy senility.
  • 1l.  An Inappropriate Santa Impersonator - No santa impersonators.


"Do you sleep with your brother? Do you know how sick and twisted that is?" ~ Audrey Griswold.
"I'm sleeping with your father. Don't be so dramatic." ~ Ellen Griswold.
"I have nightmares about what he does in bed alone when I'm not lying next to him." ~ Audrey.

  • 2a.  Nudity - Some side-boob and sexual references.  Less than the previous film in the series but more than the normal Christmas film.
  • 2b.  Sex - Some references.


"Did I tell you I talked to my mother today?" ~ Ellen.
"And?" ~ Clark.
"They've decided they're coming for Christmas, too. You know, it's not too late to change our plans..." ~ Ellen.
"No, no, that's great."  ~ Clark.
"I think you're forgetting how difficult it's gonna be having everybody in the house at the same time."  ~ Ellen. 
"Honey, they're family, not strangers off the street." ~ Clark.
"All they do is argue." ~ Ellen.
"Christmas is about resolving differences and seeing through the petty problems of family life." ~ Clark.

  • 3a.  Home for the holidays - Exactly this.
  • 3b.  Santa may be real - He isn't (well, he is in the opening credits.)  Clark does tell Roby Sue that he is.
  • 3c.  Classic Christmas stories may be homagedNone.


"Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here." ~   Clark.

A variety of genres:
  • 4a.  Straight comedy - Yes.
  • 4b.  Bitter-sweet family drama-comedy - It tries.
  • 4c.  Animated fantasy (or puppets/muppets) - Only the Santa Claus opening credits.
  • 4d.  Bible retelling - No.


"You set standards that no family activity can live up to." ~ Ellen.
"When have I ever done that?" ~ Clark.
"Parties, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, holidays..." ~ Ellen.
"Goodnight Ellen." ~ Clark.
"Vacations, graduations..." ~ Ellen.

One or more of the following will occur:
  • 5a.  Ugly Christmas sweaters - Weirdly not covered (although the film doesn't make it to Christmas Morning.
  • 5b.  Pulling Santa's beard - No santa impersonators.
  • 5c.  Carolers are annoying - Fortunately, no carolers.  There is patriotic singing at the end, though.
  • 5d.  Some kind of competition - Clark is in constant competition with the world.
  • 5e.  Mistletoe - No mistletoe.


"I have never been treated like this in my life." Mr Shirley.
"I'm sorry. This is our family's first kidnapping." ~ Ellen.

The following simple things are difficult, often comically so:
  • 6a.  Putting Up Christmas lights - An recurring sequence of Clark's many adventures putting up the christmas lights.  The film also begins with a sequence involving getting and putting a tree.
  • 6b.  Not walking out after a fight with family - Clark sneaks out 
  • 6c.  Last minute gift purchasing - Does not occur, but by the end of the film probably necessary.
  • 6d.  Assembling Christmas gifts - Not shown.
  • 6e.  Cooking - Not shown, but Cousin Catherine does overcook the Turkey.
  • 6f.  Attempts to get home for Christmas - Does not occure.
  • 6g.  Even a getting and putting up a Christmas tree can lead to disaster - The film begins with a long sequence covering exactly this.  It later burns and is replaced leading to a squirrel atack.
  • 6h.  Other - Failure to get family bonus, a long series of comedic incidents (getting locked in attic, cat fire, kidnapping, sewer explosion)


"Before we begin since this is Aunt Bethany's 80th Christmas I think she should lead us in the saying of grace." ~ Clark.
"What, dear?" ~ Aunt Bethany.
"Grace!" Nora Griswold
"Grace? She passed away 30 years ago." ~ Aunt Bethany.

  • 7a.  Nativity/Little religion - No religion, except a reference to the Christmas star.
  • 7b.  Accept non-Christians into the celebration - Doesn't happen.
  • 7c.  An annoying overly religious person - Doesn't happen.
  • 7d.  Angels - Doesn't happen.


"Merry Christmas, Sparky." ~ Ellen.
"Merry Christmas, honey. I did it." ~ Clark.

At least one of the following will happen:
  • 8a.  Snow -  There is a layer of snow throughout the film, not just the ending.
  • 8b.  Grump-No-More - Ellen's parents are possibly less grumpy, but Lewis's last line is still a grumpy one.
  • 8c.  Santa is Real - Cousin Eddie's kids think so, and the film ends with a flying lawn ornament.
  • 8d.  The Unexpected Extra Guest - Slightly with Clark's boss Frank Shirley.  Although that does involve a kidnapping.
  • 8e. Wisdom From an Unexpected Source - Clark's Christmas star revelation given his character.
  • 8f.  The Single Will Find Love - Doesn't happen.


"It's the Christmas star. And that's all that matters tonight. Not bonuses or gifts or turkeys or trees. See, kids... It means something different to everybody. Now I know what it means to me." ~ Clark Griswald.

Will have a sickly sweet ending with a "The True Meaning of Christmas" message - especially:
  • 9a.  Family is the most important thing - This is mostly the plot throughout.
  • 9b.  Miracles are real - Almost goes there with the aurora and shooting star, but avoids it.
  • 9c.  It's the thought that counts - Under the surface throughout.
  • 9d.  Other - Christmas means something different to everyone, and although it's not clear what it means to Clark, he's finally worked out what it is (which seems like a parody of this idea.


'"Sometimes things look good on paper, but lose their luster when you see how it affects real folks." ~ Mr. Frank Shirley.
  • 10a.  No sequels - The third in a series of films.  Some more films in the series, but it also has a direct, straight-to-DVD more sequel in 2003's "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure" (the 5th film in the series, although more a spin-off than a sequel.)
  • 10b.  May be a sequel - As noted this is the 3rd film in the "National Lampoon's Vacation" series.
  • 10c.  Remake - No remake.
  • 10d.  Adaptation - An adaptation of John Hughes' short story "Christmas '59" which had been published in National Lampoon. 


"By the way, I hope my report helped out at the trade show." ~ Clark.
"I'm sure it did, Grisball." ~ Mr Shirley.

  • Followed in this film:  1; 3; 4; 6; 9.
  • Partially followed in this film:  2; 5; 8; 10.
  • Not followed in this film:  7.

~ DUG.

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