Scenes We Love: Clark Griswold Explodes with Christmas Cheer

Scenes We Love: Christmas Vacation

There will always be a special place in my heart for Jeremiah Chechik’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. In my adult life, I have made it a Christmas eve tradition to rival any sappy joy-filled movie you may watch with your family. Whether I’m hundreds of miles from home or right next to close friends and family, this movie reminds me of the best Christmas years of my own life. Large family gatherings, plenty of food and yes, plenty of Auxillary Nuclear power-required mishaps. There is no Christmas like a Griswold Family Christmas. And to celebrate this love, our weekly Scenes We Love entry takes a look at one of Clark Griswold’s most iconic and explosive moments.

Setting the Scene:

It’s been a hard fought year for Clark, played by Chevy Chase, the “last great family man” who spends his days creating preservatives to keep your cereal fresh and crunchy, all in hopes of delivering his family a wonderful gift with his big fat bonus check. He’s made his plans, including putting down a $7,500 deposit on a ridiculous pool, all that remains is to receive a check in the mail. But Clark’s boss, as played by the ever grumpy Brian Doyle-Murray, has other plans. Instead of a big fat check, and just after his prized Christmas tree has gone up in flames, Clark receives something far less valuable. And it sends him into one of cinema’s most memorable, somehow PG-13 rated tirades. It was a more innocent time then.

Watch the Clip:

What’s to Love:

In a film like this, one filled with mishaps and holiday shenanigans including plenty of physical comedy, it’s important to have some sort of plot device that creates tension beyond Clark’s mother-in-law’s hemorrhoids. The bonus check does just that, creates a bit of rising tension that ultimately pays off with a heroic gesture from the unrefined Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid). It’s also a great example of Chevy Chase’s comedic timing and effortless delivery. Few actors were as good in their time as Chevy was in his.

Why This Stands Out:

It’s the breaking point between the rising first two acts and the somewhat action-heavy third act climax. And it’s memorably hilarious to see Clark absolutely lose his shit. In a movie filled with unforgettable moments, this one has the most immediate and uproarious kick.

Final Thoughts:

It was a tough choice, this one. Coming into the holiday season, there was no doubt in my mind that we’d have to share a scene from Christmas Vacation. And with so many from which to chose, it was hard to narrow it down. As an example of that, I’d like to cheat and give you a bonus clip that involves a sled and some high-grade cooking wax. Later dudes…

You’ll almost certainly want to explore more Scenes We Love.

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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