17 Egregious National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Plot Holes


(Editor’s note: re-publishing this holiday season article from a previous year because it’s Christmas time)

The tradition continues! At previous Christmas times we vivisected the Christmas Eve bowl game being played by USC and Notre Dame in “Die Hard.” At Thanksgiving we covered a lot of, if not all, the transportation, commuter and geographical gaffes in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

Now we take on the yuletide cinema classic from 1990, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” a film set in Chicagoland over the course of about two weeks in December.


For Clark W. Griswold, one of the most endearing Christmas movie characters ever, his work week begins on Dec. 14, according to the Advent calendar shown in the film. Thus, it must be a Monday, and therefore the Saturday in which the opening scene, the far-fetched and cataclysmic Christmas tree obtaining sojourn, occurs on December 12. The movie culminates in the later stages of Christmas Eve, so it spans a time period of 12 days.

Vast stretches of the movie are basically cartoonish, so there are plot holes aplenty to list out. We won’t even get into how the parents age naturally throughout this franchise while the kids go backwards and then forwards and then I guess sideways or whatever with their aging process during the series of movies.

We have a ton of strange and non-sensical gaffes and errors already to cover, so here’s five right off the bat.

It’s also worth noting that no one on Earth would make the lane change that Griswold makes in the opening scene. That’s because you would easily see a truck that large with your peripheral vision, even if you were looking ahead the whole time.

Also, a gigantic vehicle like that, moving with such velocity, is something you would also certainly hear coming. Moving on, it’s really coincidental how both sets of grandparents, traveling from different parts of the country, end up at the suburban house at the exact same time.

Additionally, we’ll just skip past the rocket sled scene because there are just too many suspensions of reality to go through there. Again that scene is basically a cartoon, so we’ll treat it as such. Now here are four more gaffes, bringing us up to nine already.

And what happens to Clark’s sleeve that he mistakenly staples to the roof facade? We don’t see him retrieve it later, and also don’t see it on the side of the house again after that scene.

In terms of the attic scene, since he was able to crash through the floor so easily into an upstairs bedroom, why doesn’t Clark intentionally clear more space and then escape? Also, enough space has arguably already been cleared so that he could conceivably make himself free. Through the hole that’s already there he could get back into the rest of the house.

After all, he was planning on going to lunch and shopping with his wife and all the grandparents. Yet he continues to stay in the attic and freeze instead of making a real attempt to escape and then join them.

And the most honest line in the entire film is Ellen Griswold’s father stating: “Clark, has a car, he can meet us up later, I have to eat, so I can take my back pill.”

If there are any septuagenarians or octogenarians in your life, then you can easily relate. Shit, I can relate, and I’m only a Xiennial.

During the house lighting scene, how come the neighbors, Todd and Margo, don’t know the way around their own house better? Even with the lights coming on and off, they can’t feel their way around their own home to figure out where they are? They can’t help but trip and fall every time the lights come on and off?

Clark narrates “the shitter’s full” scene by stating that Cousin Eddie “oughta know it’s illegal (to empty the liquid waste into the sewer), it’s a storm drain; I pity anyone who lights a match within ten yards of it.” The line is a classic example of the Chekov’s gun principle in story-telling, but Eddie already has a lit cigar (to accompany his morning Meister Brau) in his mouth at the time.

So did he light it before he started emptying the “contraption.” It doesn’t quite add up.

Also, how come every single person in the house is deathly afraid of squirrels as if the cute little animal is a man-eating lion? There are people who keep squirrels as pets. Have you heard about sweet little Jill, who was rescued from a hurricane?

It’s worth noting though that “you couldn’t hear a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerine plant” is one of the most underrated movie lines of all time!

The massive and overly aggressive police and SWAT team response is very realistic though, but only because they’re coming to aid a very rich white man.

If the abductee was middle class or below, and non-white, there’s no way in hell the cops would move that fast and strike that hard in real life.

That all said, there’s obviously plenty more gaffes, errors and plot holes that we haven’t covered, but nearing 1,000 words on this, I think we’ve spent enough time on this.

Besides, the fact that we even did this exercise is a testament to how many times we’ve seen Christmas Vacation, and thus, how much of a Christmas classic we regard it to truly be.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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