national lampoon's christmas vacation
Warner Bros.

Here's What To Consider Before Showing Your Kids Christmas Vacation

From electrified cats to ladies showing their panty line, there's a lot to discuss. (Yeah, we're serious, Clark.)

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As Christmas Day nears, I personally am preparing by making some hot chocolate, turning on our twinkling Christmas tree lights, and snuggling up under a big cozy blanket on the couch to watch holiday movies. For many, myself included, getting the whole family together to watch some feel-good Christmas films is a beloved tradition. But while there are plenty of kid-friendly movies to choose from, I'm unsure about a few of my favorites. Like, is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation appropriate for kids to watch?

Christmas Vacation is about a well-meaning dad trying to give his family the perfect Christmas.

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is a well-meaning guy. But as he forces his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and children, Audrey (Juliette Lewis) and Russell (Johnny Galecki, to take part in Christmas traditions, like choosing a tree and decorating the house, things slowly start to go wrong. From visiting relatives, including his crass and hapless brother-in-law, Eddy (Randy Quaid) to Christmas-light induced power outages, nothing seems to be going as he imagined. And what’s worse, Clark finds out that the Christmas bonus he's been banking on from work may not actually be coming.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is rated PG-13.

The Motion Picture Association noted that a PG-13 rating means "parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13." IMDB also noted that this particular film includes mild sex and nudity jokes (a department store worker showing Clark her remarkable lack of a visible panty line; him later fantasizing about said store worker); mild violence and gore (done for slapstick effect); moderate profanity (no f-bombs, but all the other words you’re probably thinkinf of are sprinkled in); and depictions of characters smoking and drinking. Another thing to note is that, while there’s no overt dialogue that says there’s no Santa, there are a couple references that might raise questions in believing kiddos. For example, when Clark discovers that money is tight for Eddy and his wife Catherine, he offers to buy their kids Christmas presents so the children can get things “from Santa” under the tree.

A whole bunch of other funny moments take place throughout the movie, like Cousin Eddie kidnapping Clark's boss to berate him for ruining Christmas by withholding Clark's bonus and a SWAT team showing up at the end to save him, but I think you might be able to recognize a common theme: most of the humor is really more for adults than little kids (unless your toddler is very advanced and can understand the frustration of work problems).

Ultimately, this is a highly personalized decision.

Regardless of whether you decide to watch this movie with your kids, it's pretty clear that this film wasn't exactly made with young kids in mind. Not only are some of the references mature and/or vulgar, but many of the jokes and situations might just go over their head, so they might not even find it as fun to watch as you do. But “how young is too young?” That depends. The MPAA thinks 13 is the sweet spot, but parents on Common Sense Media suggested it’s OK for kids as young as 11. Other families might find, yes, not all of these jokes are super appropriate for my 9-year-old, but the warm holiday memories we’ll make as a family watching it will outweigh the negative aspects of it. Sure, they might not even get a lot of the jokes (maybe that’s a good thing in some cases?), but maybe they don't need the jokes or funny situations to make sense as long as they can see Clark fly off the ladder while putting lights up on the house or a dog chasing a squirrel through the middle of Christmas dinner.

Our two-sentence verdict

There’s definitely some questionable material in Christmas Vacation if you plan to watch it with children younger than 11 or so, but there’s no nudity, hard drugs, or terrible violence or language, either. In other words, do what feels best for your family.

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