Old Lady Movie NightOld Lady Movie Night: "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"Anne T. Donahue

ARE WE READY? For what, I’m not sure. But are we? I am. I’ve got a Christmas beverage to my right, and my neighbours’ Christmas decorations to my left (outside — I didn’t steal them and put them in my room or anything), and I am now prepared for our third Christmas movie endeavour.

Now, I will admit that this one is late. I’m sorry. I’M SORRY, but I was away yesterday, and by the time I came home I couldn’t get my act together, and excuse, excuse, etc. etc., here we are today. But that’s fine! Christmas Vacation, you guys! That means the holidays are TRULY HERE. In only a few short weeks we will be eating Turtle candies out of the tin while complaining about having eaten too many Turtle candies, and I will hoard Quality Street chocolates until I am judged by everyone I hold dear.

And tonight, I put up my Christmas tree. But that’s tonight! NOT NOW. Not before we sit around, gather together, eat our weight in “holiday treats” (read: I remember candy cane ice cream exists and I eat six tubs while you watch in horror) while watching . . .

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

LET US BEGIN!

1. This is my favourite Christmas movie ever

It truly is. I mean, I really, REALLY love It’s A Wonderful Life, but it’s Christmas Vacation that I know off by heart and insist on reciting whenever the appropriate moments arise. (Read: all moments.) I’ll even let you in on a little secret: this year, I watched it in September. Why? BECAUSE  I COULD. BECAUSE IT’S CHRISTMAS VACATION. And if you know anything about me, you’ll know that I love Christmas and vacations and movies about both of those topics combined.

2. Todd and Margo are our spirit animals

And truthfully, I say “we” because I feel like saying “I” makes this all about me, and also, I need to have some moral support here. Also, as we all know, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a wonderful, magnificent unicorn, so I will say that she trumps Todd tenfold — and not just because he doesn’t have the courage to walk next door at the end of the movie. But enough about that! (FOR NOW)

3. I wish my dad loved Christmas as much as Clark Griswold loves Christmas

And this is not a dig at my Dad at all! I love my Dad! He’s great. The man is letting me put up the tree tonight, and he gives approximately zero cares about which tree I use (I have one from my old apartment, and one that my parents bought), and I’m pretty sure that if I bought light-up reindeer, he’d plug them in with gusto. BUT Clark Griswold LOVES Christmas. He loves it more than I think any human loves any event or thing. Which, to me, is the right amount to love Christmas. First of all, trying to be Christmas-y around people who don’t love Christmas is hard. It’s not easy. Why? Because you really want them to scream-sing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in the car with you when you’re stuck in traffic but drinking Christmas-tasting beverages, and they usually don’t. Second, because everything feels like a chore. But imagine you were a kid and your Dad loved Christmas the way Clark Griswold does? Man. I’ll tell you this much for free: the swearing when putting up Christmas lights would have been reduced exponentially.

4. None of my work experiences have ever been Christmas-y like Clark Griswold’s

Well, for starters, I worked retail from Christmas 2001 to Christmas 2009. And if you worked retail EVER during the Christmas season, you will understand that the holidays are a time for crying in the back room, and crying in the back room, and also crying in the back room. (Which I did often.) That said, there were a few Christmas parties I attended, like the one for the hardware store I was a manager at when I was 19, and where drank three drinks in a half hour time span (each had three shots), and then danced alone to “I Love Rock and Roll” (where I screamed, “THIS IS MY SONG!”) before sitting at my managers’ table, and comparing their wives to various Sex and the City characters. Bleak.

Writing, though, is different. Christmas parties exist! But also, going for Christmas meals/drinks exist more — which is right up my alley. But bonuses? Do people get/have those still? Are they a thing? I have yet to have a Clark Griswold Christmas where I get either a bonus or a subscription to the jelly of the month club. Where and how do I sign up.

5. But why would Clark put the down payment on the pool before he got the cheque?!

SERIOUSLY WHY. That’s just TERRIBLE planning! And this is coming from someone who moved to a city after taking out a $10 000 loan — in addition to her student loans! I am the QUEEN of terrible planning, and even I can say, “WOW Clark, that was TERRIBLE planning.” Why wouldn’t he wait until January? Would it not have been cheaper? Could he not have just told them on Christmas morning anyway? And if he didn’t get the bonus, could he not have gotten something else? These are my questions. But most importantly, this is my statement: Clark, no.

6. This customer service employee should be fired

So Clark’s at the lingerie desk, and that’s all well and good, and he’s seemingly forgotten how to talk to human beings, but this employee! Who is she? Why is she the worst associate in the history of retail? (Not to mention, he, the worst customer in the history of consumerism.) As someone who had to serve some inappropriate males at ye olde American Eagle, I can say that it would have been perfectly acceptable for this employee to say, “Okay, sir, well  . . . goodbye” as opposed to SHOWING HIM HER UNDERWEAR. #WHY Why would she lift up her skirt that high? WHY WOULD SHE SHOW THIS STRANGE MAN HER UNDERWEAR? Do you know what would have happened to me if I had done that at any of my jobs? No? No, neither do I, because that never would have happened. But if it had, firing. A huge, public firing.

7. But why does the family show up so early?

Now, I might be out in left field here, mostly because I’m a Canadian, but why does everyone show up a week before Christmas? And if they were showing up so early, why not get a hotel? I get that everyone’s family, but listen: if you are coming for a week at Christmas, and I don’t have a spare room, I’ll HELP YOU get a hotel because I don’t want you all up in my grill for 25925825825 hours. I mean, most people I know only spend a few days at home — and my family, we only spend a DAY together. (Extended-style.)

But then again, everyone. I may just be doing things weird — I AM a Canadian.

8. Remember how late everyone used to put up their decorations?

Case in point: Clark puts his outdoor decorations on about a week before the holidays. As opposed to the people who live on my street, who began the day after Halloween. And do you know what? I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH THAT. Mostly because one of my neighbours has synced his lights to Christmas music, so I get a special treat every time I walk outside. (Called “trying to figure out which song is playing because it’s been two years and I still can’t figure it out.”)

9. “And why is the carpet all wet, Todd?”

I DON’T KNOW, MARGO.

Seriously my favourite quote in almost any movie, ever. I turn into a hysterical child whenever I hear it — I don’t know why, I absolutely love it, and no phrase other than, “You smell like beef and cheese, you don’t smell like the real Santa” can ever compare.

10. Why are Clark and Ellen’s parents so mean?

Right?! So they get invited to their house for A WEEK (see: “why are they so early?!”) and they are NOTHING but rude to Clark and Ellen. (Minus Clark’s mom, who is lovely. Also, his dad isn’t that bad, either.) But her parents! MY GOD. Even if you don’t like who your daughter married, GET ON BOARD, as they now have two teenage kids, and it’s probably been about 20 years. And who would do that? Who would honestly go outside to see the lights turn on and then be MEAN if it doesn’t work out? As a human, that’s just terrible. Especially if they are your family, and you are staying at their house, and they tried to make Christmas nice for you. ESPECIALLY.

11. And speaking of horrible, why would Ellen’s mother just close the attic door?

She’s the worst human for real! OBVIOUSLY somebody is up there! It’s not like anyone just opens the attic door and thinks, “Ah! Now THAT looks better!” No, they open the attic door (not that I have ever seen one — seriously), and GO INTO THE ATTIC. This is two strikes, Ellen’s mother. And another strike to her father, who can’t wait five seconds for Ellen to check on Clark in the house.

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE. IS THIS REAL LIFE. HASHTAG WHY.

12. Every time I hear that Ray Charles song, I pretend that I’m in Christmas Vacation

Like, in my mind. I don’t act it out or anything. And when I say “pretend,” let’s really take that term with a grain of salt because I’m usually at the mall or it comes on my Radio shuffle or something and I’m working, so basically, I hear it, and I nod and/or think to myself, “You’ve got this, Anne. You and Clark Griswold. And it’s Christmas, and you get it.” And I’m not sure why I choose those phrases, and I don’t usually, but hey. Now whenever you hear it, you’ll think the same things too*.

*Or you will think that I’m insane. Either or.

13. THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS SCENE

There are actually no words for it at all. I literally can’t say ANYTHING to do justice to this scene. The music + the nuclear alert + how bright the lights are + Todd and Margot + Todd and Margot falling down = nothing in the world makes me happier. If you think that after years I watch this and merely smile, you know nothing about me, and you know nothing about how hard I laugh when people fall down. I AM SIX YEARS OLD. AND NOW HE IS KICKING THE FAKE REINDEER. AND NOW HE IS PLUGGING IT BACK IN, AND . . . guys, I’m seriously a child. And I don’t care. THIS SCENE IS PERFECT. And young Chevy Chase reminds me so much of this guy I used to work with that I’m seriously considering calling him up and asking him to freak out over Christmas lights. (I won’t, but . . . I want to.)

14. I can’t with cousin Eddie, though

I really can’t. He’s just so oblivious, and unable to be polite, and oh my goodness, no. NO! I don’t even find him funny . . . ? Is that wrong? I just get mad, because as a type A micro-manager, I would just insist he sit absolutely still and touch nothing in my home, and also help chip in for dinner and/or ask him why. WHY IS HE HERE. I mean, I don’t dislike the actor, obviously, as it takes a one hell of a human to transform into Eddie, but Eddie himself. No. The worst human. Get out of here, Eddie. Go to bed.

15. The pool fantasy

The first time I saw this movie was in grade five or seven (I had the same teacher for both), and I remember her being like “Oh no!” and running over to the TV to fast forward this scene, but it was too late. Now, at the time, I knew it wasn’t exactly a PG moment, but now that I’m older, I’m kind of like, “. . . Why did we watch this in Catholic elementary school?” Right? But, okay! Sure! Whatever. Old school teachers, you guys! (Because let the record state that she is the same one who told us when we were 10 that there’d be a pandemic that year that would kill us all.) (I think she retired a few years later.)

16. How did Eddie have a list if he wasn’t going to buy anything to begin with?

THAT IS THE REAL QUESTION OF THE HOUR. Here, Clark springs a beautiful gorgeous surprise on him (ex. “I’m going to buy presents for your kids on your behalf”) and boom — Eddie just springs him with a full list! So what, is that what he expected? THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT, YOU GUYS. He’s so selfish! Just the worst! I CANNOT. I JUST CAN’T. Why would you write a list unless you assumed it would be taken care of? I shake my head at thee, sir. Yes, sir, you fictional character from 1989.

17. I wish I could say I wouldn’t wrap my cat

I mean, obviously I would make sure the said cat’s present box would have air holes and that he would be in a very beautiful, comfortable bed, and actually he wouldn’t be wrapped, he would be cradled like a baby. Obviously. So no, I wouldn’t wrap my cat, nor would I give him away. But I would bring him with me to places if I could, because if people with small dogs can, WHY CAN’T I. Please don’t judge me.

18. Aunt Bethany voiced Betty Boop!

DID YOU KNOW THAT? I just learned! See? Honestly, older people are so much better than us. THEY’VE JUST DONE SO MUCH MORE. I can’t wait until I’m older and can just lay down a whole list of things as opposed to now where we’re still all, “Oh, well . . . I’m doing this one thing . . . or I’m working on this . . . ” Imagine being like, “Oh I’m 80, and I voiced Betty Boop. Also, I was a famous movie star. Also I paved the way for women in animation. Also, etc. etc. etc. And NOW I’M DOING THIS.” Guys, it’s going to be so fun. Even if we DON’T do all of those things, we’re going to have so many OTHER things to talk about. Also, LOOK HOW COOL MAE QUESTEL WAS:

Just awesome. Also, still awesome:

19. The dry turkey makes me hungrier…?

What’s wrong with me? I should be disgusted, but instead I’m all, “That crunchy turkey seems DELICIOUS.” Kind of like chips? Or a lot of turkey skin? Please stop judging me. You have every right to at this point, but please stop. (She says, after writing how much she’d love a meal consisting solely of turkey skin.) (I love you guys. Thank you for listening to me.)

20. I legitimately get super sad about Aunt Bethany’s cat every time

EVERY. TIME. Because I love cats to the point of rivalling that girl in the “I love cats!” video. And this is fictional! THIS MOVIE IS NOT REAL. This cat is not even real, and that scene didn’t actually happen in real life, and unfortunately, that cat has probably passed away now as this movie is over 20 years old. BUT that doesn’t mean that every time I watch this scene I don’t think, “OH NO.” And have to pep talk myself like someone who doesn’t understand how movies work. I’m a 27-year-old woman, by the way. Who still has to tell herself that movies are pretend.

21. In all fairness, the jelly of the month club IS a gift that keeps on giving

I mean, Eddie really does hit it right on the head, let’s be honest. IT KEEPS ON GIVING. EVERY MONTH. New jelly! Imagine the flavours! I bet you get some really cool berry at least once. Maybe even watermelon. There are people who truly belong to peanut butter of the month clubs, and THAT is something I’d be very interested in learning more about as well. Like, I don’t want to pay for it, but I would like someone to give me a new peanut butter or jelly something for free every month. So maybe I’d do well with this guy as my boss. Because I don’t want to put in a pool, and I would appreciate free jam. I probably wouldn’t show UP to my job, though, as it looks boring, BUT I mean . . . I’d still take the gift.

22. Imagine a squirrel in the house, though

IMAGINE IT. No, you’re not, are you? BECAUSE THEY ARE HUGE. My cat has this thing about watching the squirrels and birds outside, and the squirrels will get right next to the window where my cat is laying, and YIKES they are massive. I know that psychologically, I wouldn’t recover from this Christmas. Or more realistically, I would probably leave and come back later, only not to trust Clark Griswold with any holiday event planning ever again. Why it would take to this point for me to figure that out, I’m not entirely sure, but somehow I know I would overlook his freak-out, and cutting down of the tree outside, only to #NeverForget when a squirrel got into the house and nearly killed us all.

23. But WHO WOULD LEAVE Christmas, though

I know I say that I’d be suffering from psychological and emotional damage, but in all seriousness, NO ONE would leave Christmas when things got so bad, or so help me any-higher-power-you-believe-in, our relationship would be over. I mean, isn’t Christmas about family? So I figure, bask in the hell fury that has become the Griswold holiday experience, and use it as an excuse to have too much wine or egg nog or various other snacks. IT COULD BE WORSE. And that’s what I would say when I forced everyone to stay RIGHT WHERE THEY WERE WHILE WE WATCHED A CHRISTMAS FILM.

24. This is seriously the best Christmas, though

RIGHT? I mean, so yes, EVERYTHING was a disaster up until the point where Eddie (who I forgive — FINE) kidnaps Clark’s boss, but then the Griswolds get what . . . thousands of extra dollars? And no kidnapping charges? I WISH. I WISH THAT CHRISTMAS HAPPENED TO ME LIKE THAT! And okay fine, this movie teaches that kidnapping leads to positive results, and ignore that. BUT in pretend-land, where I have to remind myself that we currently are because we are watching a movie (#NeverForget), you can absolutely earn positive results by, say, getting your cousin to take your boss to your house where you shame him into giving you back your bonus. Don’t do that for real, but remember (I said to myself), this isn’t real life.

25. I LOVE GRISWOLD CHRISTMAS

And we’re already at the end! My GOODNESS this movie is short. Which, you know what? Is fine by me. Remember the over-two-hour situation we found ourselves in last week? I do. And while I love The Holiday, I LOVE (capital letters) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation even more. Especially because we have not only every aspect of the movie revolving around the holiday season, but because we are literally covered in kitsch Christmas decor (my favourite kind), and I am now craving egg nog. And if you want to know what the mark of a terrific movie is, that’s it.

I don’t KNOW, Margo.

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  1. As someone with a dad who is, more or less, Clark Griswold, I can confirm that it is pretty freaking awesome ;)

  2. It’s our christmas tradition to watch this movie and Home Alone 1 + 2. Classic and memorable! :)

  3. [...] Get into the holiday spirit with this classic Christmas-y movie: [HelloGiggles] [...]

  4. I recently watched this with my husband. At 29 years old, he had NEVER SEEN IT! It was so great watching it with someone for the first time and realizing it really holds up. Thanks for your awesome post :)

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