Film and Plot Synopsis
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!
‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ Movie Summary
At work, Clark is working on a new product for his company but his jerk boss that can’t remember anyone’s name couldn’t care less, unless it makes a profit. Clark is expecting a huge Christmas bonus to put in a swimming pool as his gift to the entire family. Unfortunately, he used up the family savings that he needs the bonus to replenish before Christmas. Later in the week, as the family is Christmas shopping, Clark meets Mary, the ultra-sexy lingerie sales girl because… well, yeah, why not. It’s National Lampoon. But before Clark can discuss his Christmas log and his not-dead-wife further, he awkwardly realizes Rusty is standing right next to him.
Once home, Clark and Rusty start decorating their house with a mere 25,000 imported Christmas twinkle lights because he didn’t start doing this at Halloween like everyone else. In the meantime, Clark’s old-fashioned parents and Ellen’s drunk parents arrive to spend the holidays with the family, to Audrey and Rusty’s embarrassment. It takes a single day to get the house completely wired since it’s Clark and his magical stapler we’re talking about here. His uptight, yuppy neighbors make fun of Clark to let us know they’re the bad guys since they’re childless yuppies after all. Clark has accidentally plugged all 25,000 lights into ONE single garage switch and can’t get them to turn on so he gets upset and drop kicks his plastic Santa before Ellen realizes the wiring issue. She flips the switch and the blinding lights send the city into an immediate power shortage.
What’s Christmas without crazy relatives?
As the family puts on their sunglasses and stands around admiring the thousands of dollars in next month’s electric bill lost to this craziness, Clark gets congratulations from all of them, including the uninvited Cousin Eddie, his wife Ellen, their kids Rocky and Ruby Sue, and their dog, Snot, just accidentally pulled into their driveway in their dysentery-on-wheels RV for the holidays too, much to Clark’s entire family’s chagrin, I mean, joy.
Once Eddie, his family, and Eddie’s black dickie and white turtleneck have made themselves at home, Eddie’s dog, Snot, starts drinking the Christmas tree water, causing the tree not to dry out before Christmas because that would be too obvious. Clark wonders why his boss has not sent out the Christmas bonuses yet, so instead of asking his boss directly, he stays up at night daydreaming about his pool,… and Mary the lingerie girl skinny dipping and emerging… out… of the pool… to reveal… Ruby Sue, is standing behind him as he daydreams. She tells Clark the kids were told by Eddie not to expect gifts this year because Eddie is a turd but it still breaks Clark’s heart.
The next day on a shopping trip for dog food and broken light bulbs, Eddie reveals to Clark that they’re completely broke and have no money for presents because Eddie never found a management job in seven years of searching. So Clark promises to buy presents for all Eddie’s family so they can enjoy a wonderful Christmas because Clark’s bonus must be the size of some small country’s GDP. The next morning, as the family sits around the breakfast table throwing insults at one another, Clark looks out and sees Eddie emptying the RV’s waste disposal into the city sewer, creating a dangerous green ooze even the Ghostbusters wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot-lighted match.
On Christmas Eve, Clark’s senile and borderline deaf Aunt Bethany and Scrooge-like grump, Uncle Lewis arrive for the festivities, complete with a gift-wrapped cat that nobody wants. During the family meal, Catherine has cooked the turkey so long, even the turkey was knocking on the oven saying, “Damn, woman, I’m DONE already!”. Aunt Bethany’s cat drags the Christmas tree lights under a recliner because that’s what cats do and shockingly is electrocuted into oblivion. While they decide what to do with the corpse, Lewis tells Clark to get his cigars. As Clark returns to the table, a huge “POOF” happens in the other room. Lewis torched the too-dry tree because we never saw THAT coming. Clark puts out the flames but not before realizing his Christmas dreams are nearly over.
The Christmas bonus isn’t quite what was expected
Clark hears a knock at the door and it’s the company delivery man with an envelope for him. Relieved, Clark blurts out to the entire family about his surprise pool present which makes the entire family happy. Then Clark opens the envelope and reveals… Annual enrollment in the Jelly of the Month Club, instead of the thousands needed to build the pool.
Clark goes berserk and gives the best Christmas rant of all-time: Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people, and I want him brought right here! With a big ribbon on his head! And I want to look him straight in the eye, and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?
The crazed Clark goes outside with a chainsaw and saws down his neighbors’ tree because that’s what all of us would do, destroying their bedroom window in the process. Eddie drives his RV over to Mr. Shirley’s house to kidnap him, while Mrs. Shirley calls the police about the kidnapping.
After Clark has installed the new tree, the family actually sits around relaxing like nothing bad has happened when Aunt Bethany of the Wonder Ears hears a strange noise. Clark explores the Christmas tree and realizes a live squirrel is still living in the tree! When Chip, or was it Dale? jumps out, everyone scampers away as Snot gives destructive chase throughout the house. Clark calls for Eddie to eat the squirrel but he’s nowhere to be seen. When Clark and his father enter the room to catch the squirrel, there’s a knock at the front door. The angry neighbor wife stands at the door at the precise moment Clark chases the squirrel out the door and the squirrel jumps onto the neighbor and he slams the door shut. Case closed…
So Clark sits down to read “The Night Before Christmas” to the kids because it’s Christmas and something normal has to happen sometime. But Clark looks outside and sees Eddie kicking the ribbon-hogtied and gagged Mr. Shirley’s keester and walks into the living room of the house, exactly as Clark had asked for earlier. However, the boss fires Clark on the spot. But Clark unloads on Mr. Shirley about the unfairness of his actions because, why not. He’s going to jail anyway. May as well take your swings now. The SWAT team arrives outside the house when Mr. Shirley, standing there in his pajamas, hogtied in red ribbon, in a stranger’s living room instead of in his own warm bed on Melody Lane, looks around and sees the error of his ways on the faces of the shell-shocked and sad Griswold clan and apologizes to Clark and his family, telling them he was giving them a REAL bonus that was much higher than Clark was expecting.
The family is celebrating at the precise moment the SWAT team breaks into the house, throwing everyone into chaos and groin-grabbing panic. The Griswolds are told to freeze when Mrs. Shirley walks in to press charges. But Mr. Shirley kiboshes the whole deal when he explains to his wife about the bonuses and she’s upset at the Boss. But everything ends up okay in the end. Eddie’s kids run out onto the lawn to see a shooting star as the entire family and police also run out to celebrate. The that dumbass Lewis stands next to the volatile sewer and lights a cigar… The dude never learns. So the sewer and sends the entire family flying backwards but, alas, Lewis survives. Joyful, smoke-filled dancing ensues as Clark steps outside with Snot to look into the sky, thankful the Griswold Family Christmas was a raging success.
Additional Film Information
- Add the film to your collection today
- Listen to our Lunchtime Movie Review episode
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation official website
- Peruse IMDb’s article on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
- Learn more National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation information at Wikipedia
- Get National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation numbers at Box Office Mojo
- Find out what people think about National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at Metacritic
- Read National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation reviews from the folks at Rotten Tomatoes