National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Movie review by
Andy Davis, Common Sense Media
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Silly humor for the holidays; some iffy stuff.
  • PG-13
  • 1989
  • 97 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 35 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 92 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It's a National Lampoon film, so any specific message is secondary to crude humor and slapstick comedy. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

This 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.


Many laughs depend on mishaps like falling from ladders or traveling in a car stuck underneath a big rig, but nobody gets hurt. A pet cat, however, gets electrocuted. 


Some flirting with a lingerie sales lady leads to some provocative dialogue and camera angles. Later on, she appears in a daydream stripping out of her bathing suit. The camera cuts away before she finishes, with a reveal of the side of her exposed breast. 


One prominent use of "f--k." "A--holes." "Bulls--t." "Pissing." "D--kless." "Fata--." "Jesus." "For Christ's sake." A little girl says that someone is "s--tting bricks." When her father tells her that that's not a nice thing to say, she amends it to "s--tting rocks." 


A scene in a Wal-Mart parking lot; boxes with the Wal-Mart logo are clearly shown in a different scene. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many of the adults are often drunk. One character is never shown without a beer can in his hand. Characters binge-drink egg nog. Cocktail drinking. A character's daughter is referenced as being in rehab in order to get a "cure of the Wild Turkey." An elderly man tells his son that he often got through Christmases by drinking Jack Daniels. Cigarette and cigar smoking. 

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.) 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8 and 11-year-old Written bybwolfe90 November 28, 2012

Fun, but not for young kids

It is a fun movie and a personal modern Christmas classic along with A Christmas Story and Scrooged. It's important to note though that presents from Sant... Continue reading
Adult Written bytommysportsgirl April 9, 2008

Ok, not for kids, but still...

The funniest National Lampoon movie of them all!!! You've got to see this at Christmas.
If you've got kids, wait until it airs on television- that wa... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old December 14, 2014

Quite iffy...

Well,I watched this with my 7 and8 year old sisters and they honestly didn't care. The iffy parts were when Clark gets his"Christmas bonus" and... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 11, 2011

You don't know what disfunctional means until you've seen this holiday movie

An average family comedy for the holidays that features probably the worst family ever. The put their waste in the gutter, the wrap a cat in a box and then acci... Continue reading

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedy

Themes & Topics

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