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.
In order to discuss the faults found within Vacation, the frankly unneeded rehash of what even 20 years ago felt tired, we need to first come to terms with the current state of American comedy. Over at Every Frame a Painting Tony Szhou studies Edgar Wright’s use of framing, camera movement and music to further enhance comedy. Even those at the very top of the American comic food chain – Adam McKay, Judd Apatow and (to a far lesser extent) Adam Sandler – succeed in the creation of jokes on page but fail to use picture and sound in an interesting way. Vacation again suffers from this loose, often increasingly dull improv experiment with no interesting visual or audio cues.
Ed Helms stars as Rusty Griswold who decides to bring his kids and wife – played rather valiantly by Christina Applegate – on a road trip to Walley World, a knowing retread of the doomed trip he took when he was Anthony Michael Hall. It’s less of a film, more a series of interconnected vignettes allowing a bunch of mates to be paid to spend time with one another.
Credit where credit is due to Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins, who play the two kids with bravado and balls. Almost all laughs stem from their interactions, more often than not involving Kevin (Stebbins) physically torturing James (Gisondo). It’s a shame that these laughs are almost exclusively funny because it’s a young child swearing profusely or attempting to murder his older brother. Not exactly the height of wit.
Back to Edgar Wright. There’s a moment in which Detective Angel (Simon Pegg) has to travel from London into the far depths of the countryside, a situation which naturally has no humour. Yet Wright uses visual and audio cues in order to find humour in the mundane. Vacation, a film in which it’s almost all travel and stock footage of American monuments fails to grapple with the idea that humour isn’t exclusively written down. Not every joke has to involve a two-shot of people speaking to one another with a rare cut.
Writer/director partnership John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein’s jokes work on paper, yet akin to Apatow and McKay, in allowing the cast to improvise around it, the jokes drain fast. It’s a shame as the jokes that do land are genuinely funny, but if I want to watch improv, I’ll watch improv.
The state of American comedy is now of concern. Vacation is funny. It’s just a shame that there is nothing to those jokes.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★