Driving back from school drop-off this morning, I flip on my radio for some Christmas music. Instead of a song, the radio DJ asks a question to her listening audience: What Christmas movie would you most want to be in? There is no hesitation as to which movie I’d choose.
In comes the first caller, “Good morning. You’re on the air. What Christmas movie would you most want to be in?”
Caller: Well, most people may not think of this as a Christmas movie but it is. I would want to be in Love Actually with Hugh Grant.
Me: // sigh //
Radio DJ: Oh, that is a good one. Some characters you wouldn’t want to be in that one, too, am I right? // laughter ensues //
Another caller: It’s a Wonderful Life.
Another: The Santa Claus.
Radio DJ: Oh, I absolutely love that movie.
Another: Miracle on 34th Street.
Radio DJ: Timeless classic right there.
As I pace my way through traffic on 29, I’m still awaiting the most obvious answer.
Another: A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Still waiting while drinking my BOOST balanced nutritional drink.
Another caller, this time a kid: Home Alone.
Close but no cigar (same writer as the real answer: John Hughes) but at least there is hope for the Youth of America, after all.
By the time I get home, I realize how at odds I may be with the normal everyday Joe. Or am I? Maybe it’s the radio station. The DJ. The audience. I’m not saying any of these movies are bad movies. Most are classics in their own right. But if I’m picking one single Christmas movie I’d most want to be in, there is only one right answer.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
That’s the clear winner winner chicken dinner. What the f—, people? Miracle on 34th Street? It’s a Wonderful Life? A movie with Hugh Grant? You’d choose those movies over the side-splitting, continuous hilarity that is Chevy Chase’s masterpiece National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?
I’d love to be a fly on the wall for this film — or at the least, a squirrel in a tree.
I once thought about writing an essay on how National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is hands down the greatest Christmas movie of all-time years ago. But the essay ended up being 20,000 words and I wasn’t even halfway done. I tried pulling out my favorite scenes to explore in depth but then I realized the whole movie is scene after scene of my favorite scenes in cinematic movie history.
Growing up, the Pillow household, led by our patriarch Wayne, watched this movie every year. Not a year went past we didn’t watch it. And I’m not talking about the watered down version they show on regular television or cable. We had the VHS cassette tape with all the swearing.
You can’t watch the censored version of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. That’s like listening to a clean version of N.W.A or “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)” by Snoop Dogg. What’s the point?
There’s a lot of nuance I missed as a young kid that, as I grew older, picked up on, particularly the lingerie shopping scene in the mall with Rusty in tow. My kids are still completely oblivious to what’s going on when we watch this scene presently.
I’ve seen this movie, I estimate: over 1,000 times, and I still laugh my behind off as if I’m watching it for the first time ever. That’s not only good writing. That’s great writing.
Even my everyday dialogue includes references to this movie. For example, let’s say we’re out somewhere fancy shopping at like Target and I’m feeling extra generous. I’ll say something to the kids or Allison while we’re in check-out like, “Get you something really nice.”
To this day, whenever I’m visiting back home and see my sister, when we leave to head back home, she throws up a hand gesture and says, “Later dudes” (a reference to the sledding scene that ends in the Wal-Mart parking lot).
Am I that off base?
So as I’m sitting in my car listening to disappointing answer after disappointing answer, I’m thinking, am I really that off base in what Christmas movie would be worth being in?
What movie would you be in?
Technically there’s no wrong answer.
Actually, there is: thousands of them.
Because there’s only one right answer.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
It’s not even close.
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