Directed by John Francis Daley and Johnathan Goldstein
Written by John Francis Daley and Johnathan Goldstein
Starring Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Leslie Mann, Chris Hemsworth, Beverly D’Angelo, and Chevy Chase
In Vacation Rusty Griswold, (Helms) takes his family on a cross-country road trip to Wally World, the same trip that he had made with his family thirty years earlier. Over the course of the vacation, various hijinks and obstacles occur (standard road trip comedy stuff). It is then up to Rusty to not only keep his family together but also create a stronger family bond in the process. The John Hughes penned, Harold Ramis directed original Vacation from 1983 is one of the classic comedies from the 1980’s. This sequel (thinly veiled remake really) is an attempt to bring the comedy from the 80’s into 2015. Early in the film, Helms’ Rusty makes a claim, in an effort at meta-humor that this vacation will stand on its own and be different from the original vacation. While this Vacation tries to stand on its own, it never gets out of the shadow of the original Vacation.
The pros of Vacation are Christina Applegate and Chris Hemsworth. Applegate is good in this movie; she lands most of her jokes and is the only one of the main Griswold family that is even watchable. Hemsworth is hysterical, and he steals that part of the movie. Unfortunately, for the ladies out there, I am fairly sure that was a prosthetic. There were also two strong scenes in the movie that showed how much potential that this film had. There is a scene with Norman Reedus at the end of the movie, in which he nails a couple of callback jokes from earlier in the picture. Also the scene that takes place at Four Corners, which features great cameos from Tim Heidecker, Nick Kroll, Kaitlin Olson, and Michael Pena. That scene was, for me, the highlight of the movie. While the nostalgia was good, Lindsey Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” was something that was nice to have. The rest of the nostalgia, the station wagon and the girl in the Ferrari, felt shoehorned. Despite that it was a nice thing to have in the movie.
The cons of Vacation are Ed Helms and the youngest son. Ed Helms is not a leading man; at best, he is a co-lead as he was in The Hangover. Helms is not the guy you want to lead the entire movie. The youngest son was obnoxious. The moment he said his first joke, I thought, “Boy, this is going to be rough”. The humor did not work in this film either. While the jokes were able to land most of the time, this Vacation tried to go for a contemporary gross-out/R-rated comedy thing. This movie needed to be more in the vein of the comedies that were done by Ramis/Hughes so that it had that classic feel to it. I believe that the film could have stood on its own by paying homage to the Ramis/Hughes comedies because then there would not be the need for the shoehorned nostalgia. Then the tribute to Ramis/Hughes plays the nostalgia card, and would have done so to greater effect.
Overall, Vacation was not an unenjoyable experience; the film has some solid laughs, although it never really overcomes the shadow of the original to stand on its own. In fact, this remake is a lot like a family vacation taken to the same destination year in and year out. It seems like an exciting idea at first, but then you realize that it is just the same thing every year. Vacation gets 2.3/5, it does what it needs to do, but comes up short where it needed to succeed.