A Christmas family tradition of watching a movie with the greatest f-bomb
By Dylan LeDuke, Contributor
There is a hallowed Christmas tradition in my family. One that, for me, started on a 24-inch tube TV in my jammies, sitting on the ground, listening to my dad angrily fast-forward the VHS tape. It continues today on a 55-inch LED TV, on a Blu-Ray disk.
No, my family and I are not sitting down to watch the Grinch conduct the greatest heist ever seen in Whoville. Although, the classic cartoon rendition is a staple on Christmas morning. Also, we aren’t watching the tale of a forgotten, resourceful, little maniac, as he uses guerilla-warfare style tactics to defend his home against two bozos in Home Alone.
No, my family sits down and watches the ‘comedic masterclass’ performed by Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation — a cult classic and my personal pick for best use of a PG-13’s single allotted f-bomb in a feature film.
My parents began the tradition with a few of their friends years before I was born. While I don’t know all the details of how the tradition came to be, I am pretty sure it was a byproduct of my dad’s obsession with movies that the IMDb section routinely grades below a six-out-of-ten that led him to develop a love for the movie.
For those of you who don’t know, this movie is part of a long-running series based on a John Hughes short story titled “Vacation 58” that was published in the National Lampoon Magazine. The movies, released from 1983 to 2015, mainly follow the adventures of Clark W. Griswold as he takes his family on a variety of trips that are all filled with ridiculous comedy and hi-jinks; from a Moose-based parody of Disney World to Europe, and even to Las Vegas.
The movies range wildly in quality and humour, from groan-inducing and garbage, to a gut-busting holiday classic. Whatever it is, the magic of Christmas or bad humour, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has a special quality that makes it mandatory that we all watch it every year as a family.
In its first scene, we see the family driving through the snow-covered outskirts of the city on the way to get the “Griswold family Christmas tree,” which shows us how the family operates as a whole.
When I was younger, I laughed at the part where Chase flips the bird towards the two hillbillies in their pickup before promptly getting himself stuck underneath a moving semi-truck. Now, the scene holds a new world of meaning and subsequently makes me laugh that much harder.
Chase’s ridiculous road rage and unwillingness to back down reminds me of my father berating idiots on the highway. The way Beverly D’Angelo desperately tries to calm him down before resorting to calling on a higher power for help makes me think that the scene may just have been filmed in my family’s car on a road trip to mountainous British Columbia.
The whole movie is a series of unfortunate events. From squirrels, a “fried pussycat” and a burnt down tree to kidnapping Chase’s boss. All of this is naught but a trial for our protagonist on his quest to provide the ultimate “Griswold family Christmas.” It then follows a traumatic and hilarious scene involving the aforementioned squirrel, a dog named Snots, actress Julia Louis Dreyfus and one ruined Christmas eve, (for those of you who haven’t seen the movie, I’ll let your imagination fill in the blanks).
There is a line delivered that is quite possibly the best f-bomb ever delivered in a PG-13 movie. Everyone, all the aunts, uncles and grandparents, understandably done with the evening’s festivities, tries to escape. For Clark W. Griswold, seeing everyone pack up and try to go is the straw that breaks the reindeer’s back. This sends him into a tirade befitting a cruel dictator moments before his downfall, with a hint of serial killer for good measure, he proclaims that no one shall leave and everyone’s going to have- and I quote, “The hap-hap-happiest Christmas, since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny f***in-Kaye.” As a child, I had no idea who either of those people were, but it didn’t stop me from sharing in the laughs with my parents and repeating the line to friends. After years and years of rewatching, I only laugh harder now as dad rewinds to play it again.
To be honest, when I first sat down to watch the movie as a kid I never really got it. A movie about a dumb family and their father’s wish to pull off the greatest family Christmas ever — noble cause for sure. I only laughed at the funny parts I could understand at the time, I was just too young to get the subtleties or references, or the naughty jokes. I always just wanted to go back downstairs and play.
Thinking back, I now know that I grew to love the movie because I grew to understand and relate to the story within. The importance of family only becomes more apparent living away from home. It’s always a treat to visit family and watch it, reciting every line with my dad and eating my mom’s homemade cooking. Truly, much like Ruby Sue from the film, it only took a mule called time to “kick me un-cross-eyed” before I could see.