The movie opens yesterday afternoon with Clark and Ellen standing in the back corner of Walmart, looking at an artificial tree with broken branches that is 50% off. Clark would rather spend $20 than deal with totally unassembling and then reassembling the contents of the holiday decorations closet. "This one might be good," he says. Ellen's all, “Just get whatever, my head hurts.” It's one of those shopping days where when one person stops to look at something, the four people standing closest come over to look at it. Also it's too warm, the air is stale, and their Walmart, which has no grocery store, is therefore basically just a gas station without gas.
Then, Clark and Ellen pick up a few bags of dog food and load them into the cart next to the tree because, as Clark points out, "It's not that we ever have to ask 'Do we need dog food?' as much as we must always ask, 'Is this a good time to buy it?'
Meanwhile, Clark and Ellen's kids, Audrey and Russ, are at their friends’ houses. Ellen knows that Audrey will come home with some sort of craft project, and Russ will come home having borrowed a video game. Ellen wonders, again, if the reason the kids go to their friends’ houses so often is because they want to see what life would have been like if Clark had gotten an MBA, or if Ellen had watched more HGTV, if both of them had paid other kinds of attention.
Neither Clark nor Ellen is in a hurry to go home after they pay for the tree and the dog food, because neither is hoping for a special delivery from work. The reasons for this are in other movies: National Lampoon's New Job Vacation Blackout Period, which is a sequel to National Lampoon's Getting Out Of A Bullshit Job With A Massive Commute, which is a sequel to National Lampoon's Ten Years of Outdated Corporate Loyalty. There are also movies in the extended universe related to this: National Lampoon's Health Insurance, National Lampoon's Your Boss Lies To Your Actual Face, and its sidequel National Lampoon's Let's Pull Your Creative Life Into Your Corporate Life And Pound Both Into A Nasty Pancake. All of these movies are included in the National Lampoon's How Can You Even Complain, It's Not Like The Shitter's Full box set.
So instead of going home, Clark and Ellen go to the Subway inside the Walmart. They eat Subway Clubs in front of closed captioned CNN, where everyone is amazed, in white text on blue background, that President-elect Undead John Hughes is a huge hot mess.
When they get home, Clark and Ellen discover they have very different ideas about where to set up the tree. Ellen thinks it should go in the corner of the living room, by the window. Clark had planned to put it on top of the lopsided coffee table that's next to their broken coat rack, where not even the neighbors will be able to see it.
In a flashback, Ellen’s sister Catherine and her husband Eddie hand out gift bags at Thanksgiving because they’re taking their RV down to Costa Rica for the winter. After the flashback ends, the same colorful, expensive-looking gift bags are shown crammed underneath the coffee table. And Clark thinks that Christmas trees should be adjacent to Christmas presents, but somehow, not the other way around. Ellen closes her eyes, and visualizes the pack of cigarettes that she keeps behind the washing machine.
But it turns out that Clark knows what to do, after all! It's either put the tree in the corner, or come home from work tomorrow and find Ellen has moved it there anyway. So, he puts the tree in the corner!
The dog immediately comes over and begins to chew on a dark green plastic branch.
"What do you think, Ellen?"
"It is what it is, Sparky."
They laugh a little, because nothing else has ever worked.
At the end of the movie, Audrey and Russ come home. They walk up the driveway, and they see the family Christmas tree in the front window. Audrey shows Clark and Ellen a finger-knitted alpaca wool ornament she made at Debbie's house. It may look like a gray blob with stumpy appendages but it is, in fact, the Christmas star.