While I do take some pride in occasionally being considered the movie nerd in the room, I have to admit I sometimes struggle with the more typical questions it leads to. Do I have a favourite film? Sure, but it’ll be a different one next week. What’s the best film of the year? Erm, I don’t think I know what ‘best film’ actually means. Do I have any Oscar predictions? Yes. Meryl Streep will be there. In a dress. But there’s one question I’ve never had any hesitation answering – what’s my most beloved Christmas movie?
In short, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) sums up everything I love about this time of year. What you want it to be, what it will fail to be and ultimately what you can make it. It’s the story of an imperfect but impassioned man’s unstoppable quest to give his family the Christmas they deserve, while delivering the gift of perfectly blended comedy and sentimentality to us as the audience. In just 97 minutes, we’re given a front row seat to the hilariously harrowing derailment of the festive freight train that is Clark W Griswold… And I’ll never get tired of it.
As I’ve already said, Clark is by no means perfect. He gambles a whole chunk of his family’s finances on a swimming pool that’s reliant on an increasingly unlikely Christmas bonus, flirts outrageously with a young department store clerk (initially suggesting his wife is dead before limiting the lie to just being divorced) and fantasises about the aforementioned shop assistant stripping by his imaginary pool. But would Clark have risked that money if not to provide a perfect summer for his wife and kids? No. Would he have acted on his adulterous urges if given half a chance? Well, probably, but that’s not my point. Clark W Griswold is flawed… and yet to me, he’s one of the greatest character creations of modern cinema – and a man I very much aspire to be.
I’ve been a dad for just 3 years now and I know that, as a father, it’s my job to give my family the best Christmas I can. And I know I can do that by adhering to the values of the Griswold family Christmas. What are those values? Well I’m glad you asked. Here are my completely made up Ten Christmas Commandments as I feel Clark W Griswold might dictate them.
#1 Nature is thine ally
A Christmas tree is the centrepiece of festive celebration and your forefathers would never have settled for the kind of scrawny, dead, overpriced tree you’d find on a sales lot. Nature will deliver the right tree. And it shall be large, it shall be full and it shall have a lot of sap.
#2 Thou shalt bring light to the world
Regardless of the cost or how long it takes, it’s thy job to bring forth the light. Listen not to those who tell you less is more and celebrate in swaddling your home in a warm electrical glow. Love and respect every one of your 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights and if they don’t work, check each one of them again.
#3 Thou shalt not heed advice
Yours is the knowledge that is righteous and good. Exercise your skills as a carpenter, electrician and handyman and never lose faith in your abilities. Even when those 25,000 imported Italian twinkle fail a second time, stay strong. The answer will present itself and you need not heed the advice of your wife in the meantime.
#4 Honour thy father and mother… and your wife’s father and mother
They will doubt you, they will question you, they will criticise every single thing you do and test your resolve. They may even lock you in a freezing cold attic for the day while they go shopping with your credit card. But remember, you are a great man and their cynicism has not the power to shake you from your quest.
#5 Honour thy cousin… Even if he’s Randy Quaid
He may be a slob, his kids may be ugly and his dog’s sinus condition damaging to thine carpet, but Christmas is a time to overlook the shortcomings of our fellow man and help those among us who need it. Tolerate his ways, welcome his family into your home and shower them with gifts (don’t worry, he has a list).
#6 Thou shalt not commit adultery
As tempting as the fruit that adorns the department store counter may be, remain faithful. Man was created with urges and it’s perfectly natural to act out thy most depraved fantasies in thy mind. But a righteous man never strays from the embrace of a patient and loving wife – especially if your wife is Beverly D’Angelo.
#7 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbours home
Thy neighbour is a self-obsessed yuppie prick and lives in a sterile world where joy and wonder have been replaced by Bang and Olufsen. His home is as cold, empty and soulless as his wife, whereas your home is warm and filled with love and laughter – and your wife is Beverly D’Angelo.
#8 Thou shall not tolerate thy neighbour’s wife
Thou shall instead casually threaten to bend her over and cram a 12-foot Christmas tree up her ass.
#9 Thou shalt not kill… unless it was an accident
Thy faith may be rocked by ungrateful guests or an unexpected subscription to the jelly of the month club, but it’s thy duty to handle disparagement and disappointment with patience and grace. However, if one of those guests chews through the Christmas lights and is killed… well, that’s just natural selection.
#10 Thy boss is not God
Thy boss may have the power to complete thy Christmas, but never should this turn you into a kiss ass. Come Judgement Day, all cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sacks of monkey shit will be first to face the wrath of the almighty.
Merry Christmas to you all!
Article originally written for the Unbound.co.uk Adventures in VHS Writer’s Shed in December 2012.