National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jeremiah Chechik|
|Produced by||John Hughes
|Written by||John Hughes|
|Music by||Angelo Badalamenti|
|Cinematography||Thomas E. Ackerman|
|Editing by||Jerry Greenberg|
|Studio||John Hughes Entertainment|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Running time||97 minutes|
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.
With Christmas only a few weeks away, long-time Chicago resident Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase) decides it's time to get a Christmas tree. He gathers his wife Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), daughter Audrey (Juliette Lewis) and son Russ (Johnny Galecki) into the family station wagon and drives out to the country where he finds the perfect tree. Since Clark has brought neither axe nor saw, the tree is pulled from the frozen ground.
Soon after, both Clark's and Ellen's parents arrive to spend Christmas with the Griswolds and almost immediately start getting on everyone's nerves. Clark, however, is determined to have a "good old-fashioned family Christmas" and stays in a positive mood. He decorates the house with up to 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights, which temporarily causes all of Chicago to have a power shortage requiring nuclear energy backup (though he accidentally wired them through his garage light, causing him much distress in trying to fix them every time it is turned off). While standing on the front lawn admiring the lights, Clark is shocked to see Ellen's cousin Catherine (Miriam Flynn) and her sleazy but bighearted husband Eddie (Randy Quaid), who've arrived unannounced from Kansas in a broken down RV. Eddie later admits that he's broke and had to sell his home. Clark offers to help Catherine and Eddie give their children a good Christmas. Eddie then gives Clark a list of gift ideas and tells Clark to throw in a gift for himself.
With Christmas approaching quickly, Clark begins to wonder why his boss, Frank Shirley (Brian Doyle-Murray) hasn't given him his yearly bonus, which he needs to put in a swimming pool once the ground thaws. After a disastrous Christmas Eve dinner, he finally receives the assumed bonus from a company messenger who had overlooked the item during his earlier deliveries. The bonus instead turns out to be free membership for the Jelly of the Month Club for one year. This sends Clark into a violent verbal rage about his boss, Frank Shirley. Along with his outbursts he has one "last-minute Christmas gift idea": having his boss here, with a big ribbon on his head. Eddie takes his RV, drives to Mr. Shirley's house and kidnaps him. He brings him back to the Griswold house where Clark confronts him about the Christmas bonus. Meanwhile, Frank's wife has alerted the authorities of her husband's abduction and a SWAT team shows up, pointing their guns at Clark and his family. Frank decides to drop the charges and reinstates Clark's bonus, adding twenty percent to last year's amount, causing Clark to faint.
The little cousins Ruby Sue and Rocky are drawn outside believing to see Santa Claus in the distance and the grown-ups follow, with Clark telling them it's actually the Christmas Star and that this was "all that matters tonight and not trees, turkeys or gifts." However, uncle Lewis classifies the light coming from the sewage treatment plant. As Clark is reminded of the hazardous gas building in the storm sewer that Eddie had filled with sewage earlier, a tossed match causes an explosion, sending him flying and the entire family to the ground. Aunt Bethany (Mae Questel) proceeds to sing the Star Spangled Banner and the whole family joins in, gazing at the also still flying and burning Santa Claus and his Reindeer-Set, ignited by the explosion. The entire Griswold family, Mr. and Mrs. Shirley and the SWAT team members are singing and dancing inside, with Clark standing outside, happily smiling towards the stars saying: "I did it."
- Chevy Chase as Clark W. "Sparky" Griswold, Jr.
- Beverly D'Angelo as Ellen Smith Griswold
- Randy Quaid as Cousin "Eddie" Johnson
- Juliette Lewis as Audrey Griswold
- Johnny Galecki as Rusty "Russ" Griswold
- John Randolph as Clark Wilhelm Griswold, Sr.
- Diane Ladd as Nora Griswold
- E. G. Marshall as Arthur "Art" Smith
- Doris Roberts as Frances Smith
- Miriam Flynn as Cousin Catherine Johnson
- Cody Burger as Cousin Rocky Johnson
- Ellen Hamilton Latzen as Cousin Ruby Sue Johnson
- William Hickey as Uncle Lewis
- Mae Questel as Aunt Bethany
- Sam McMurray as Bill
- Nicholas Guest as Todd Chester
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Margo Chester
- Brian Doyle-Murray as Mr. Frank Shirley
- Natalia Nogulich as Helen Shirley
- Traci Kochendorfer as Downtown Shopper
- Nicolette Scorsese as Mary, the lingerie counter clerk
- Devin Bailey as Clark Griswold, Jr. (age 9)
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.
At the time of the film's release, the film received mixed to positive reviews, however, over time, many have cited it a Christmas classic. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 63% of 35 film critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.2 out of 10.
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." 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."
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."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."
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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.
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 direct to video 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.
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- Harmetz, Ajean (December 07, 1989). "It's Fade-Out for the Cheap Film As Hollywood's Budgets Soar". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
- "Yule Love 'Em". Entertainment Weekly. November 29, 2004. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
- Durrett, Mike. "Top 10 Christmas and New Year's Comedy Movies". About.com. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
- Leo, Alex (December 16, 2012). "The 10 Funniest Christmas Movies Of All Time". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
- "Christmas Vacation (1989)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
- "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
- "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". Variety. 1989. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
- Kempley, Rita (December 1, 1989). "'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation' (PG-13)". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
- Maslin, Janet (December 1, 1989). "Reviews/Film; On Vacation Once Again". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
- Ebert, Roger (December 1, 1989). "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
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