Christmas Vacation begins with the Griswolds as they prepare for their holiday family celebration. Per the norm, things never run smoothly for Clark, Ellen, and their two kids. After Clark’s insufferable family guests he bad luck gets even worse However, he has a surprise for everyone once his Christmas bonus arrives!
‘Christmas Vacation’ Movie Summary
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation begins with the Griswold family on their quest for The Griswold Family Christmas Tree. With his usual over-enthusiasm, Clark has planned a good, old-fashioned family Christmas, and he is going to make sure his family gets it—even if it kills them—which is exactly what Clark nearly does in the film’s opening sequence. After he drives the family under a semi-truck, it spins to a stop into the Christmas tree lot. As Clark always says, “That’s all part of the experience.”
Instead of buying a tree, Clark chops one down before returning home to work on the next item on his Christmas list—adding 25,000 twinkling Christmas lights to his two-story home. Rusty, who’s miraculously grown younger since the last two films, helps his dad with the project. As expected with any Chevy Chase film, prat falls abound as he decorates the place. His annoying neighbors, Todd and Margo Chester, are the main victims of his ineptitude.
What’s Christmas without crazy relatives?
Eventually, Clark and Ellen’s respective parents arrive for the festivities, and as with every John Hughes film, the in-laws don’t get along with anyone. Clark withdraws from his immediate and extended members of his family to focus on getting the Christmas lights to work—which he just can’t seem to do.
Eventually, with the help of a basement light switch, the lights ignite just in time for Cousins Eddie, Catherine, and their-ever changing redneck brood’s arrival. Clark’s good old fashioned Christmas is quickly going to the shitter, and unfortunately, Eddie says the shitter’s full. Clark and Ellen soon learn that Eddie and his family lost their home and now live out of their RV. To make things worse, the very senile Aunt Bethany and the crotchety Uncle Lewis show up for the dinner with their cat wrapped as a present. When the cat chews on the trees lights, it ignites.
The Christmas bonus isn’t quite what was expected
Things can’t get any worse, right? Well, Clark’s been expecting a huge Christmas bonus to pay for a pool for the family. Unfortunately, when a special letter arrives with a check for the Jelly of the Month club instead of money, Clark snaps. Screaming, he says that for Christmas, he’d like his boss in front of him with a big ribbon tied to his head. The ever thoughtful Eddie scoots out of the house.
Later that night, as Clark reads the story A Visit from St. Nicholas, he notices Eddie with a rather familiar looking man heading toward the front door. It’s his boss, Mr. Shirley—nothing says “thank you” like kidnapping someone’s boss on Christmas Eve. Clark convinces Mr. Shirley to rethink giving Christmas bonuses as the Chicago SWAT team arrives with Shirley’s wife and destroy his house.
After the dust settles, and Mr. Shirley explains the misunderstanding to the cops. With the crisis averted, everyone goes outside to look at the Christmas glow. As Uncle Louis lights his cigar, Clark realizes the light is actually the radioactive glow from sewage that Eddie emptied into the drain under his house. Uncle Louis drops the lighter which creates an awful explosion that launches their plastic Santa Claus in the air.
Aunt Bethany mistakes the explosion for fireworks, and thinking that it’s the July 4th begins singing the National Anthem. Everyone stops what they are doing, and joins in before singing actual Christmas carols. As Clark watches Santa fly through the night sky, he realizes that his dream of the perfect, family Christmas has finally come true.