A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that much of the slapstick humor in 1989's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is obviously directed at younger viewers -- from the cartoon opening to an impossibly high-speed sled ride -- but language and sexual references make it iffy for kids and tweens. Many of the movie's laughs depend on mishaps like falling from ladders or traveling in a car stuck underneath a big rig, but no people get hurt (a pet cat does get electrocuted). The salty talk is toned down a bit from the previous Vacation movies, but there's still plenty of four-letter words, including "f--k" and "s--t," some said by kids. The movie makes all of its characters look ridiculous, but the only negative stereotype is of a busty woman who sells lingerie in the local mall. Some characters are continually drunk. (Note: Avoid watching this when kids young enough to believe in Santa are in the vicinity, because the movie makes lots of references to who really stuffs stockings, etc.)
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Clark Griswald (Chevy Chase), a hard-working father of two teens, is determined to show his family a fun-filled, old-fashioned Christmas in NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION. By the time all of the in-laws and a crude second cousin show up, Clark has 25,000 lights stapled to the house and this predictable comedy is in full swing. Lowbrow, potentially-offensive humor makes this best for older viewers. For a moment during the opening scene, it looks like we're going on the road again with the Griswald family. Actually, the family is just going to the country to chop down a 40-foot tree for an old-fashioned Christmas at home, the first in a string of overblown escapades in Clark Griswald's quest for the perfect holiday. "I just know how you build up things in your mind," warns his loving but slightly confused wife, Ellen. But this fanatical family man won't be deterred until his miserly boss has been kidnapped and a SWAT team descends on his house to the tune of "Here Comes Santa Claus."
Is it any good?
For those who enjoyed the original Vacation, this holiday edition offers virtually the same story and characters with more predictability and less help from the supporting cast. Those who found Vacation utterly tasteless will find this to be slightly (but not much) cleaner. Chevy Chase has some good moments, and those who enjoy his double-talk and pratfalls will find some redeeming value in this lukewarm movie. His frustration at 250 strings of Christmas lights and his overtures to a busty sales lady are among the movie's best moments.
The producers attracted some decent talent to act as Clark's foils, but neither the stuck-up neighbor (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), nor the disgusting second cousin (Randy Quaid), nor the boss who stiffs Clark on his Christmas bonus (Brian Doyle-Murray) generate any laughs to speak of. The Griswald kids might as well be cardboard cutouts with their eyes permanently rolled. One inherent problem parents will have with this movie is how it juxtaposes juvenile humor with sexually suggestive scenes and strings of profanity.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sequels. Why is a sequel rarely as good as the original? Do you think National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is a good sequel? Do you think it stands alone?
Why is there a temptation on the part of movie-makers to repeat a winning formula? Can you think of some examples?
If you've seen the other Chevy Chase Vacation movies, did you find anything in this movie surprising?
- In theaters: December 1, 1989
- On DVD or streaming: November 18, 1997
- Cast: Beverly D'Angelo, Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid
- Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
- Studio: Warner Home Video
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Holidays
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: profanity and sexual situations
- Last updated: December 5, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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