Written and Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein.
Starring Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Leslie Mann, Chris Hemsworth, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Charlie Day, and Michael Pena.
Rusty Griswold takes his own family on a road trip to “Walley World” in order to spice things up with his wife and reconnect with his sons.
It isn’t very encouraging when the opening credits of a comedy highlight butt cracks and enlarged horse penises during a montage of postcard photographs, but at least it was a sign to set expectations very low for this sequel/reboot of National Lampoon’s Vacation, now shortened down to simply Vacation. It’s a shame because the movie has a good amount of laughs, but the problem is that it consistently transitions to unfunny scenes featuring an over-reliance on gross-out humor and lazy writing. Seeing as there are two directors on board, it appears as if one is much more talented than the other.
The good news is that the script understands the character of Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) enough to attribute some of the same personality traits to his now grown-up and married with a family son Rusty (Ed Helms). Some funny scenes of Vacation come from situational moments where Rusty is either trying to teach his children grown-up stuff or do something thoughtful, mostly because just like in the previous films, it always backfires. At the end of the day the matter how vulgar and profane Vacation gets, we can connect with Rusty because he is admirably just trying to bring his family out of a rut by giving them a bonding trip to remember.
There’s also an Albanian mini-van Rusty rents to tour across the good old USA with that is comically over-the-top with ridiculous features that no matter how illogical and unbelievable the functions are, the death trap is far and away the source of the film’s biggest laughs. Why is there a button that turns around the driver’s seat? I have no clue but the reaction of Ed Helms screaming in a fit of panic looking directly at his children while his wife (played by Christina Applegate) takes the wheel is absolutely priceless. And that’s nowhere near the most ludicrous function. The damn thing seriously has a Swastika button!
Whenever Vacation is on the road the movie is generally very funny; it’s just the numerous pit-stops along the way that break up the stream of laughs. Somehow a visit to a sorority house full of drunken shenanigans manages to fall flat. Even more baffling is how utterly disappointing and wasted the cameos by Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo’s feels. They are given absolutely nothing to do besides giving Rusty some words of wisdom regarding the purpose of family vacations.
The ending to Vacation also completely misses the point of the entire franchise, but I won’t spoil it here. Let’s just say that there should be a feeling of liberation and vicarious satisfaction when we have arrived at the destination, but it is never fulfilled. Instead the results feel like the writing and directing team just didn’t understand the message, which is mind-blowing considering five minutes prior Chevy Chase verbally spat out the words.
The humor of the film is largely awful as well; there are jokes regarding feces, pubic hair, puke, reproductive organs, a massive boner from Thor, and just a general tone of shock value comedy which is unfortunate because the movie doesn’t need it. Even the original film which is also the only other entry in the franchise rated R, only went as far as dropping some F-bombs and showing some brief nudity. It’s true that this take is more modernized with the current trend of mainstream comedy but it is an unnecessary direction that just doesn’t pan out. The spirit of the good intentioned family fun is lost and replaced by something that is quite frankly nasty, even though admittedly there are two very dark comedic scenes that work.
Finally, not so much a complaint but more of a minor nitpick, but it is very hard to accept that Audrey managed to grow into an adult played by Leslie Mann. That’s a drastic change in voice pitch making for a very awkward casting decision. It’s also very mean-spirited to rewrite the character into an unfaithful, greedy slut. At least Ed Helms is a spot-on casting decision as Rusty. especially considering his family is the focus of Vacation.
It is hard to completely loathe Vacation though as the dysfunctional family is fun to watch; they just needed to be placed in situations that offered up bigger laughs rather than an onslaught of toilet humor that quickly wears thin. Still, it’s far and away from the worst comedy of 2015, and when you factor in the release timing smack dab in the middle of summer, it makes for an appropriate choice at the cinema.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook