National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Revisited: Does the Chevy Chase classic hold up?

Chevy Chase will always be most identified with his hapless dad character from the Vacation franchise, Clark Griswold. While this is ironic given his edgier roots on Saturday Night Live, it can’t be denied that National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has become an enduring classic, with the film airing over and over whenever the holidays approach. Written by John Hughes, the film is a departure from the racier National Lampoon’s Vacation and its sequel, European Vacation, in that this time the Griswold’s family adventures would be on the tamer side (people forget the original was hard-R, while the sequel was risqué for a PG-13).

Rather than take his family on vacation, this time Clark assembles his relatives for an extended family reunion, with Randy Quaid’s fan-favourite Cousin Eddie returning for a victory lap from the first movie. Once again, the gorgeous Beverly D’Angelo co-stars as Clark’s wife, Ellen, but as usual for the series, the two kids, Rusty and Audrey, have been recast. This time, a young Johnny Galecki, years before he co-starred on Roseanne (much less The Big Bang Theory), is Rusty, while Juliette Lewis plays Audrey.

Director Jeremiah S. Chechik, who would go on to direct the well-received Benny & June (as well as the disastrous 1998 reboot of The Avengers), does a good job mixing the madcap energy of John Hughes’ script, with the sentimentality of a Christmas movie. The film was a big success in 1989, temporarily reviving Chase’s flagging career. Still, a disastrous foray into talk shows a few years later with The Chevy Chase Show would seriously damage his career, leading to one more Griswold adventure, Vegas Vacation, before the series when into hibernation for a couple of decades. Nevertheless, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation endures. In this episode of Revisited (written by Cody Hamman, edited by Ric Solomon and narrated by Travis Hopson), we dig into what makes this movie’s popularity endure.

Do you think National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation endures? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.