Tuesday, December 15, 2015

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

National Lampoon's 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.

Since its release in 1989, Christmas Vacation has often been labeled as a modern Christmas classic. It is also the only sequel in the Vacation series to have spawned its own direct sequel: a 2003 made-for-TV release entitled National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure.

The film has achieved three home video releases: VHS and Laserdisc in early 1990, and a "Special Edition" DVD in 2003. In 2009, the film was released as an "Ultimate Collector's Edition." At the same time of this release, it was also released on a simple Blu-ray/DVD combo.

With Christmas only a few weeks away, Chicago resident Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) decides it is time to get a Christmas tree. He gathers his wife Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), daughter Audrey (Juliette Lewis) and son Rusty (Johnny Galecki) and drives out to the country where he picks out a huge tree. Realizing too late that they didn't bring any tools to cut the tree down, they are forced to uproot it instead.

Soon after, both Clark's and Ellen's parents arrive to spend Christmas, but their bickering quickly begins to annoy the family. Clark, however, maintains a positive attitude, determined to have a "good old-fashioned family Christmas." He covers the house's entire exterior with 25,000 twinkle lights, which fail to work at first, as he has accidentally wired them through his garage's light switch. When they finally come on, they temporarily cause a city-wide power shortage and wreak havoc for Clark's Yuppie neighbors, Todd (Nicholas Guest) and Margo (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). While standing on the front lawn admiring the lights, Clark is shocked to see Ellen's cousin Catherine (Miriam Flynn) and her dense but bighearted husband Eddie Johnson (Randy Quaid), as they arrive unannounced with their children, Rocky and Ruby Sue. Eddie later admits that they are living in the RV they drove to reach Chicago, as he is broke and has been forced to sell his home. Clark offers to buy gifts for Eddie's kids, to help them have a good Christmas.

With Christmas approaching quickly, Clark begins to wonder why his boss, Frank Shirley (Brian Doyle-Murray), has not given him his yearly bonus, which he desperately needs to replace an advance payment he has made to install a swimming pool. After a disastrous Christmas Eve dinner, he finally receives an envelope from a company messenger, who had overlooked it the day before. Instead of the presumed bonus, the envelope contains a free year's membership for the Jelly of the Month Club. This prompts Clark to snap and go into a tirade about Frank, and out of anger, requests that Frank be delivered to the house so Clark can insult him to his face.

Eddie takes the request literally, drives to Frank's mansion, and forcibly brings him back. Clark is shocked at this development, but confronts Frank about the cancellation of the employees' Christmas bonuses. Meanwhile, Frank's wife, Helen, calls the police, and a SWAT team storms the Griswold house and holds everyone at gunpoint. Frank decides not to press charges and explains the situation to his wife and the authorities, who both scold him for his decision to scrap the bonuses, and decides to reinstate them (with Clark getting an extra 20%).

The family goes outside, with Rocky and Ruby Sue believing they see Santa Claus in the distance. Clark tells them it's actually the Christmas Star and that he finally realizes what the holiday means to him. But Uncle Lewis (William Hickey) says the light is coming from the sewage treatment plant; Clark is reminded of an earlier incident where Eddie had been dumping sewage into a storm drain. But before he can stop him, Uncle Lewis tosses a match he had used to light his cigar aside, triggering an explosion sending him flying into the family. Lewis' wife Aunt Bethany (Mae Questel), who is utterly senile, proceeds to sing the "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the whole family and the SWAT officers join in, gazing at Clark's Santa Claus and reindeer set (which he destroyed earlier out of anger), still burning and flying into the distance. The entire Griswold family, the Shirleys and the SWAT team members then celebrate inside the house, while Clark and Ellen embrace. After Ellen goes inside, Clark looks at the sky, happily smiling toward the stars and saying: "I did it."

Chevy Chase as Clark W. "Sparky" Griswold, Jr., an optimistic, caring, repressed, unfortunate, family man, who always wants his family to have the perfect vacation, but it never turns out the way he wished it would be.
Beverly D'Angelo as Ellen Smith Griswold
Randy Quaid as Cousin Edward "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 Frank Shirley
Natalia Nogulich as Helen Shirley
Nicolette Scorsese as Mary, the lingerie counter clerk
Devin Bailey as Clark Griswold, Jr. (age 9)
Jeremy Roberts as Cop

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