The Twelve Flicks of Christmas

A ben’s TEN Holiday Series

Get the Scoop You Won’t Find Anywhere Else on 12 Christmas Movies Old and New
[See complete list of reviews]

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik
Rated PG-13
Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, Randy Quaid

Review by Jeff Koch

Conventional Synopsis:

“I don’t know what to say except it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery”.

–Ellen Griswold

That pretty much sums up Christmas at the Griswold home. Christmas Vacation follows the misadventures of Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his family during the Christmas season. From cutting down the tree, to putting up the lights, to sledding, to present shopping, no holiday tradition is spared in this comedy about the joys of being in complete misery with your family at Christmas.

Beneath the Surface 

I must confess that this movie holds a very special place in my heart. Growing up, my family somehow obtained 4 movies on VHS, recorded from Cinemax, that are permanently seared into my psyche and my heart. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is one of those movies. It is nearly impossible for me to watch it with any sort of critical eye, and it always makes me feel more closely connected to the holiday season.

The movie is essentially what you might call a ‘reverse-Scrooge’. Rather than the crotchety old humbugger learning the lessons of Christmas from those around him who hold it in their heart, the ‘old man’ (Clark Griswold) has his heart brimming with holiday warmth, and must withstand the negative advances of an overbearing and doubting family and awful circumstances. It’s not until Clark reaches his breaking point and gives into his first moments of doubt about the magic of the season that the rest of the family comes around, and in a warm twist, help to lift Clark’s  spirits back up to where they normally are, and where, because of Clark’s normally unerring love and faith, the rest of his family’s spirits now reside.

In the end, the lesson is as old as the season itself: there is nothing so welcoming and wonderful as the warmth of kith and kin. The lesson comes with boundless laughs and a few sly giggles, but is in no way diminished by being couched with a smile.


Cocoa Factor = 8 out of 10
How good is this one for cozying up with a fire burning, a hot beverage of your choice, and your new Snuggy?

Magicality = 8 out of 10
How well does this one transport you back to the timeless wonderment beyond rationality when Christmas enveloped you in magic? AKA “The Santa Clause factor.”

A Date with Grandma and Aunt Bernice = 9 out of 10
How appropriate/awkward is this one to watch with relatives of all ages? Will hot kissing scenes or male rear nudity spoil the mood?

Tiny Tim’s Big Truths = 7.5 out of 10
From the mouths of babes come life’s most profound lessons. At the heart of this flick, how authentic, heartfelt and lasting is the message? Does it transcend Xmas clichés and ring bells?

Overall = 8.5 out of 10


About bensten

Teacher, writer, blogger and spiritual practitioner. Managing editor of

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