12 Days of X-Mas: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Christmastime. For most, it brings forth images of Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, and maybe even Heatmeiser and Snowmeiser. Personally? It reminds me of an asshole in his bathrobe, emptying a chemical toilet into a sewer. Nation Lampoon's Christmas Vacation has been a lifelong favorite, so filled with heart and jokes that hold up almost 30 years after its initial release, it's a bonafide classic in the holiday genre. And as we all know, the traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin.
Clark Griswold & Family had previously appeared in two Vacation films, both with their merits, but for my money, Christmas Vacation is their absolute best big screen outing. Christmas is first and foremost a time to spend with family, and if there's one character to truly exemplify that, it's Clark, played with brilliant wit by Chevy Chase. In every Vacation film, Chase truly shines, but it's here that the real heart of the character shines. Clark is a man who will do anything to make his family vacations the BEST EVER, even if it means losing his sanity along the way.
I see a lot of myself in Clark Griswold. I love Christmas, I have terrible rage issues when things go wrong, and I set standards that no family activity can live up to. That's just one of the reasons I connect to Christmas Vacation so much, not to mention the fact that it's one of the funniest films I've ever seen. A few years back I attempted to watch it every day in December, and I almost accomplished my goal, having watched it 26 times that month. It quickly became one of a handful of pictures that I can quote almost verbatim.
Other than series standbys Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo, and newcomers Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki (Audrey and Rusty Griswold) this cast is packed to brim with all manner of performers. Featuring an extended family comprised of Doris Roberts, E.G. Marshall, John Randolph, and three time Oscar nominee Diane Ladd, the roster is off the charts. The most commonly popular character is likely Randy Quaid's astronomically obnoxious Cousin Eddie, the bane of Clark's existence, and that he gives a career best comedic performance here. He's the butt of many jokes and with good reason because he almost pulls off the feat of ruining the Griswold's "perfect" family Christmas. Special attention needs to be paid to Mae Questel's role of Aunt Bethany, possibly my favorite side character here. Best known for providing the voices of Betty Boop and Popeye's Olive Oyl, she has some of the best moments in the entire film.
Much like a membership to The Jelly of the Month Club, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is the gift that keeps on giving. Sure it gets sentimental but it's very similar to the Griswold family Christmas tree, it's a little full, with a lot of sap. So this Christmas, during your family get-together, if you're not dealing with rogue squirrels, an incinerated tree, SWAT Teams, kidnapping charges, jello topped with cat food, a dog named Snots with a sinus condition, rubber sheets/gerbils, or malfunctioning Christmas lights, grab the Tylenol and revisit this hilarious classic.