Vacation – 3 out of 5
It’s been over 30 years since the Griswolds first took their original vacation to Wally World in John Hughes’ National Lampoon’s Vacation. It was a classic trip that still holds up today and even gave us more laughs when the Griswalds went to Europe and, in my opinion, hit their highest note when the holidays came and we got Christmas Vacation. Since that time of egg nog and good cheer, we had some a more forgettable trip to Vegas but how does this new trip hold up? How does this non-reboot that’s sort of a reboot but also is a remake but not really remake sequel that is simple titled Vacation rank? Well, long story short, it’s better than Vegas Vacation, I can tell ya that.
Rusty Griswold is now an adult and is being portrayed, once again, by a different actor (this time it’s Ed Helms). Well, it seems his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) isn’t the happiest in their marriage and isn’t looking forward to their yearly vacation to a boring old cabin by the lake. So, Rusty decides to pack the car, grab his boys; James (Skylar Gisondo) and Kevin (Stelle Stebbins), and recreate the vacation his father took him on years ago and head to Wally World. Well, things don't go quite as planned and life makes sure to throw a wrench in the gears as often as it can. Can the Griswalds survive the trip, and each other, and make it to the greatest theme park in the country? Or will everything go down in flames?
|And the "Holiday Road" song should be cemented in your brain right about now.|
Whenever I review a comedy that I don’t feel strongly about, I always feel the need to remind myself that comedy is very subjective—in fact, the two most subjective genres in the world of film, in my opinion, are comedy and horror because the experiences are way more personal than other types of films. When it comes to what makes us laugh and what makes us scared, so much of what we see and hear can result in a wide variety of reactions. What scares or makes one person laugh can be annoying or lame to others. With that being said, I won’t say that Vacation is an instant classic like the first trip so many years ago. The film isn’t terrible but it is very hit or miss.
|One of the misses is that Christina Applegate doesn't really feel like she's|
contributing at all.
|It'll be a cold day in hell when Charlie Day is |
Some of the film’s strongest points involved the wide variety of characters that come into play on the trip and the actors who portrayed them. Proven funny-makers like Leslie Mann, Charlie Day, Keegan-Michael Key, Nick Kroll, Tim Heidecker, Kaitlin Olson, Michael Peña and Colin Hanks show up and provide some very amusing and outright hilarious sequences that really help move the film along and make up for the less-than-funny moments that bog the story down. Additionally, there are times when actors who aren’t traditionally known for doing silly comedies come in and really had me rolling. Actors like Chris Hemsworth and Norman Reedus had some incredible solid scenes that proved to steal the moment and became excellently written and incredibly performed bits of comedy gold.
|See the gag is he has a big dick--which, honestly, could have been a terrible|
joke if Hemsworth didn't nail it just right. Yep, that line sounded weird to me, too.
Another element that worked fantastically well with the film was Steele Stebbins as Kevin, the younger sibling in the Griswold family. Without a hint of doubt in my book, this kid was the funniest member of the family and had so many extremely hilarious moments. His character would constantly antagonize and berate his older brother and the vulgar things that would come out of his mouth proved to be the right amount of shock value to be hysterical but without crossing the line and feeling like it was being vulgar to get the cheap laugh.
|Also, the kid tries to murder people by suffocating them. That's just Comedy 101.|
The parts that slowed the film down and weakened it to the point it was nearly as bad as Vegas is that a lot of the jokes were really poorly written. There are some gags that try to poke fun at our digital and social media age but come off less like a rousing send up of this reality and more like an aging stand-up comedian in a dark, smoking and sparsely filled nightclub saying things like, “What’s the deal with Facebook? It’s not a face that you can see in a book, is it?” Then, when you don’t have these weak bits, you have the even weaker bits of being gross for the sake of a cheap laugh—only the laughs didn’t arrive for me. I stated that Stebbins’ character of Kevin was written incredible well and was able to be that balanced of a character that could say and do shocking things without feeling like a cheap shocking bit but this balance isn’t seen in such parts as the family bathing in sewage run-off. Instead, these parts just felt like diving down to the lowest common denominator in order to get a quick laugh but they came off more desperate or like throw-away gags so they ended up more groan-inducing than chuckle worthy.
|This was definitely the lowest of the low points with the humor.|
Finally, the last element that really hurt this feature is the fact that some members of the cast didn’t feel right or just didn’t need to be there. For example, the bloated corpse that appears to be Chevy Chase (seriously, he now looks like he could play a drowned mad scientist on an episode of C.S.I.). I’d hate to kick a man when he’s down but the reality is Chase’s glory days are long behind him and matters are only made worse during his short scene when you see that he is trying way, way, WAY too hard to make jokes out of nothing. It’s sorta sad and depressing to watch. Almost as sad as seeing Ed Helms not really channeling even anything remotely close to what other actors brought when they played Rusty. As much as I like the guy in the right role, Helms just didn’t work as Rusty because he simply wasn’t Rusty. He was playing the same role he always plays and that is basically just being Ed Helms.