The Christmas season may be over, but it isn’t truly over when Chevy Chase is involved. That is why on February 1, 2021, Netflix is bringing Christmas to homes once again with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the third movie in the National Lampoon Vacation franchise and was the highest-grossing Vacation movie until the 2015 Vacation movie starring Ed Helms. Christmas Vacation saw the return of Chevy Chase as stumbling, bumbling, and accident-prone Clark Griswold, who had already taken his family through Wally World and Europe.
Instead of sending the Griswold family on another adventure, this time writer John Hughes brought the adventure to Clark and his wife Ellen’s doorstep. The story has the Griswold family staying home for the holidays, but things begin to go crazy for Chevy Chase’s Clark when both his and his wife’s parents arrive to spend Christmas with them. Even though the parents immediately begin to bicker, Clark is determined to have a wonderful, old-fashioned family Christmas. In typical Griswold fashion, those plans are idealized and not close to the reality of the situation. Clark also has to deal with his yuppie neighbors, an electrical problem caused by his overuse of Christmas decorations, a boss who is taking too long sending out Clark’s Christmas bonus, an aunt and uncle who arrive unexpectedly, and Cousin Eddie and Catherine, who also arrive unexpectedly with their brood.
Alongside Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as Clark and Ellen Griswold, Christmas Vacation co-stars John Randolph and Diane Ladd as Clark’s parents, E.G. Marshall and Doris Roberts as Ellen’s parents, while Randy Quaid and Miriam Flynn return to their roles as Cousin Eddie and Catherine. For the third time in three movies, Clark and Ellen’s two children Rusty and Audrey are played by different actors. This time Juliette Lewis plays Audrey while Johnny Galecki plays Rusty. Also playing neighbors to the Griswold family are Todd Chester and a pre-Seinfeld Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Initially, director Chris Columbus was brought on to direct the film, but things quickly got out of hand for the young director. Columbus first made his name as a screenwriter, writing such classics as Gremlins and The Goonies, and he had just come off directing Adventures in Babysitting and Heartbreak Hotel. He was young but he was highly acclaimed and sought after. Bringing him as the director for Christmas Vacation seemed like a slam dunk. Then he met Chevy Chase.
Chevy Chase had a reputation, and it wasn’t a good one. He was known to be difficult on set, going back to his days on Saturday Night Live. Columbus saw evidence of Chase’s reputation even before he got on set. Columbus reflected back to his brief time with Chase. “In 1989, I directed Heartbreak Hotel, and it was a disaster. It opened on a Friday, and by Wednesday it was only playing at two o’clock in the afternoon,” he said via Yahoo News.
“Around that time, John Hughes sent me the script for Christmas Vacation. I love Christmas, so to do a Christmas comedy had been a dream. “I went out to dinner with Chevy Chase. To be completely honest, Chevy treated me like dirt. But I stuck it out and even went as far as to shoot second unit. Some of my shots of downtown Chicago are still in the movie. Then I had another meeting with Chevy, and it was worse. I called John and said, ‘There’s no way I can do this movie. I know I need to work, but I can’t do it with this guy’.”
Columbus knew that walking away from such a high-profile gig could be disastrous to his career, but he did so anyway. “At the time I was living with my wife’s parents,” Columbus admitted via Insider. “It took everything in my power to convince myself to resign from Christmas Vacation because I couldn’t make the movie with Chevy Chase.”
Thankfully for the young writer/director, his career didn’t take a turn for the worse. A couple of weeks later, John Hughes sent him two more scripts. “John was very understanding. About two weeks later, I got two scripts at my in-laws’ house in River Forest. One was Home Alone, with a note from John asking if I wanted to direct. I thought, ‘Wow, this guy is really supporting me when no one else in Hollywood was going to.’ John was my savior.” As Columbus walked away, first-time director Jeremiah S. Chechik came in to direct Chevy Chase and Christmas Vacation. Since Christmas Vacation, Chechik went on to direct Benny & Joon, and the 1998 flop, The Avengers.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has since become a holiday staple along with the likes of A Christmas Story and even Home Alone. On the Giant Freakin Movie scale, we ranked all the Vacation movies, with Christmas Vacation coming in a solid number 2 spot with a 7.2. He might be a little late, but Chevy Chase is bringing his holiday spirit to Netflix this February.