Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is so determined to have the perfect family Christmas he always dreamed of, that we open with him driving his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and two kids Rusty and Audrey (Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis) out into the woods to cut down that perfect tree. The Griswold family’s luck being what it is, the simple tree cutting ritual turns into a highway chase, a frozen hike, and the eventual realization they didn’t even bring a saw.
Then the family arrives. So many people are packed into the Griswold house for Christmas its hard to keep track of them all, with Clark’s old aunt and uncle perhaps standing out the most. While the family engages in the usual sort of bickering and playful arguing that so many big families are used to around Christmas, no one even notices the dirty RV pull up into the drive way with Clark’s near-hillbilly brother-in-law Eddie (Randy Quaid) with his family and their slobbering dog. The series of holiday scenes that follow are frequently up and down; with some stirring huge laughs, and other facing trouble with pacing or simply suffering in comparison. We see various members of the family embark upon last-minute Christmas shopping, go tobogganing, or decorate the house – leading to some hilarity about Clark’s determination to have a memorably decorated house, even if that means putting up hundreds and hundreds of strings of lights.
Chevy Chase is loveable in his role as the persistent father who is determined to give his family a wonderful Christmas. Even though his actions frequently lead to chaos instead of cheer, this certainly won’t be a holiday season the Griswolds’ easily forget. Some of the most memorable moments come directly from Chevy Chase, with his delivery near perfect on lines like “Surprised Eddie? If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am right now”.
Written by the same John Hughes who gave us such 1980s classics as Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, this movie suffers from pacing in that it has all the great jokes it needs; but it doesn’t seem to know where to go with them. That being said, Christmas Vacation remains one of the all-out funniest Christmas movies around, and a personal holiday favorite of mine.