While there have been so many holiday classics over the years, few manage to stand the test of time quite like "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". Something just gets me about it -- from the opening melodies and signature animation of the title sequence to the whole Griswold family singing carols with the SWAT team. It's a time capsule of the American suburban Christmas in the late 80's. It's the last time Chevy Chase was REALLY funny. And almost every frame of the flick is crammed with jokes. While I have seen this movie at least a hundred times, I continue to notice new gags and, err, Easter Eggs. Perhaps that's the reason the movie endures more than ever, because it has "Ahhhhh." factor, meaning every time you see it, you notice something new that makes you go "Ahhhhh...I never noticed that before!" Below is just a short list of the most obvious, but hidden, jokes...
1. Crunch Enhancer
One of my favorite off-beat jokes in this film is when Food Additive Designer Clark is asked by his co-worker about that "beauty you've got over there right now at Food and Drug". Clark proudly describes the "Crunch Enhancer", a "non-nutritive cereal varnish" that "coats and seals the flake" and "prevents the milk from penetrating it". When his colleague gives him a perplexed look, it's perhaps because Clark's invention is essentially negating the concept of cereal altogether. While lingering cereal can indeed become soggy over time, it's the milk that makes it edible in the first place.
2. Late Night Snack
As Clark labors through the night on his broken electric grid of lights, inside, the crusty grandfather E.G. Marshall is wide awake, helping his eyes to a late night feast as he gawks at the poster on the ceiling of his grandson Rusty's bedroom. While this isn't really a hidden joke, it should be noted that the model is Carre' Otis, one-time wife of actor Mickey Rourke, and that the poster itself is signed, curiously, by Georgies Marciano. While Ms. Otis is undeniably sexy on the poster, why a teenage boy would have said poster signed by the co-founder of Guess Jeans is, well, anybody's guess.
3. Christmas '59
When Clark's stranded in the attic, he finds some film cans of old home movies. The first one he sees is labeled "Xmas '59". "Christmas '59" was the title of the National Lampoon short story written by John Hughes that inspired the film. Click the link. It's worth the read!
4. Marty Moose Makes a Cameo
While freshman screenwriter John Hughes scored a mega-hit with his 1983 "National Lampoon's Vacation", he only returned his pen to the franchise six years later under pressure from the studio. While we're glad he did, there are few references to his original opus, save for the characters themselves, of course. One signature of the larger "Vacation" universe remains, however, in plain -- albeit quick -- sight. Every time he needs some alcoholic relief from his yule tide stress, Clark turns to drinking Eggnog from a glass in the shape of Marty Moose, the wacky Wally World icon.
5. Desk Set
Like most corporate employees around the holidays, Clark tries to show his obligated appreciation for his Scrooge boss with a gift that is wrapped in the shape of an "L". When the unenthusiastic executive nods, "Just put it over there with the others, Griswold," Clark nudges a smorgasbord of like-shaped gifts out of the way. What are these shapes when unwrapped, you ask? Desk sets! That most trivial and non-offensive of office Christmas gifts.
6. Ellen Lies
While I always got the joke at the end of the movie that it seems to be a Griswold family tradition that every vacation ends with a SWAT team, I only recently realized that Ellen Griswold lies to Clark's boss Frank Shirley when she assures him that this is their "family's first kidnapping". Actually, it's their second. John Candy is the first hostage when the Griswolds hijack Wally World in the original "Vacation". Maybe she's thinking that technically, the charges were dropped, and the security guard's kidnapping actually became a fun day at Wally World for the Griswolds, Roy Wally, and the entire LAPD SWAT unit!