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8 Meltdowns That Actually Guided Clark Griswold To His 'Christmas Vacation'

Samuel Johnson’s famous quote “Hell is paved with good intentions” could best be embodied in the character of Clark Griswold. The father of family vacations desires what every male parental figure seeks…quality time with his family. But time after time, the best intentions of the Griswolds usually translate into hellacious circumstances for Clark.

In ‘Christmas Vacation’, Clark attempts to simplify a holiday vacation by removing the traveling element and inviting relatives to a “good old-fashioned Christmas” at the Griswold residence. Unfortunately, this seemingly controlled environment for family bliss results in at least eight uncontrollable meltdowns by Clark during the film. Not all are over-the-top outrageous, but every moment shows how good circumstances can go bad in a heartbeat. But it’s only through these outlandish meltdowns that Clark finally achieves his goal.


Stuck Under A Truck

A pleasant ride through the countryside to obtain the “most important of Christmas symbols” turns into a tight situation when Clark instigates two locals in a pickup truck. It’s the first time we see Clark lose focus of the Christmas prize. Instead of making a “one-fingered point” to these bad drivers, he could have steered the front-wheel drive sleigh clear of this slippery condition.


Saucer Sled Rollercoaster Ride

A fun recreational event turns into disaster when Clark’s competitive nature adds kitchen lubricant (and a major headache) to his saucer sled ride. In a wild expedition to the local Wal-mart, Clark encounters every wooded obstacle in a path to Guinness World Record destruction. However, it is possible his actions were rational if his intent was to simply escape the company of his cousin Eddie.


Christmas Lights Fight

After receiving help from his reluctant son, Clark’s effort to illuminate the exterior of his house fails miserably. With his 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights in the dark, Clark goes berserk by shouting obscenities in the company of his entire family. Fortunately, the collateral damage of his rage is contained to a miniature sleigh and the timely flip of a switch finally shows Clark the angelic glow of his handiwork.


Squirrel Surprise

The long journey to find the perfect Christmas tree comes back to haunt Clark when a “funny, squeaky sound” turns out to be a displaced squirrel. The ensuing chase throughout the house causes panic in all family members leaving Clark to head the cleanup crew. His makeshift coat-and-hammer plan doesn’t work as designed, but eventually Clark’s panic subsides when the squirrel is welcomed by a neighbor’s open arms.


Smoke If You Got ‘Em

The Griswold family tree finally meets its demise when the pyrotechnics of Uncle Louis’ cigar lighting burns it to a crisp. With the symbol of his family spirit in ashes, Clark is somehow able to transform his demand for restitution into a curtain-wrapped rescue of his tree assailant.


Newel Post Repair

Clark’s desperation to replace the family Christmas tree leads him to cutting down the nearest evergreen with a chainsaw. After showing signs of a mental breakdown, his surrogate coffin…err…tree also leads to a timely repair of a loose stairway newel post. Although not a blatant outburst, Clark’s quick fix implies his internal percolator is coming close to its boiling point.


Leaving So Soon?

With the house in disarray, Clark’s extended family tries to exit the evening without his permission. Even though hell’s threshold is within grasp, he expresses that no family member will be bailing out from the unstoppable descent into Christmas oblivion.


The Bonus of No Return

Of all the things to finally light Clark’s freak-out fuse, a small glimmer of hope turns his dream of a swimming pool into a nightmare of preserves. The untimely delivery of a jelly-of-the-month membership instead of a bonus check produces one of the all-time greatest rants in movie history. Clark’s powder keg of anger explodes into a burst of superlatives directed at his boss, worthy of every preceding circumstance of the past hours.


But thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. Even through the impending kidnapping and S.W.A.T.-induced ransacking of the Griswold residence, Clark’s family stands by him. They understand that he wasn’t to blame for everything and even through all the turmoil, his good intent was still intact. Clark’s vacation finally comes when he recognizes his family’s spirit of forgiveness and that is why we can enjoy his unfortunate circumstances year after year.

EDIT (Vaporman87): Be sure to read more of SockOfFleagulls' work at!

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SockofFleagulls Posted on Dec 10, 2014 at 08:54 PM

Thanks Vaporman! It is good to stretch our legs now and again.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 10, 2014 at 06:34 PM

It's good to see you BOTH stopping by now and then. It's nice to have places to come and share thoughts and stories together, in addition to the sites and podcasts we all maintain on our own. Thanks guys!

Jason, I added a plug for your site to bottom of this article.

SockofFleagulls Posted on Dec 10, 2014 at 01:28 PM

@oldschool80s thanks! I've read a few of yours on here as well!

OldSchool80s Posted on Dec 08, 2014 at 03:37 PM

A fun read (as usual) about a personal favorite. Glad to see you post over here! (My Christmas submission will hopefully be coming this week!)

pikachulover Posted on Dec 07, 2014 at 07:26 AM

I always joke with my mom once she starts putting cat food in her jello it's time to stop. Which is even stranger since she doesn't have any pets.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 06, 2014 at 12:07 AM

LOL @ Hoju. I wonder it they considered cooking up some way to get you to leave, like faking a power outage or projector malfunction.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Dec 05, 2014 at 11:49 PM

Loving your pen name. I once spent a lonely holiday season evening at a movie theater attending a special retro screening of Christmas Vacation. It was a 10pm show and I literally had the theater to myself. The staff kept coming in to see if there was anyone in the theater because they wanted to go home, but like Clark, I stood my ground in the name of Christmas...or I didn't have anything better to do. Take your pick.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 05, 2014 at 09:43 PM

LOL. Who wouldn't want a subscription to Jellies for a bonus? I imagine if I decided to start giving that as a bonus every year, I would be a really popular guy... to think about killing.

Great breakdown of Clark's... er, breakdowns. It's that Christmas you remember going so terribly, multiplied by 1,000. Which makes it a must watch every year. :)

echidna64 Posted on Dec 05, 2014 at 07:47 PM

That's the gift that keeps on giving the whole year!

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