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Review: Vacation

Vacation
07.29.2015
4 10
 

PLOT: Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) follows in the footsteps of his father Clark (Chevy Chase) by taking his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and sons James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) on a disastrous cross-country trip to Wally World.

REVIEW: As is par for the course in our reboot-heavy pop culture, everything old is new again and that now extends to the surprisingly durable NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION series. With CHRISTMAS VACATION still on in heavy rotation every Christmas, it’s amazing that a Griswold family follow-up hasn’t happened sooner, and to give directors/screenwriters John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein credit, they didn’t opt for a remake or family-friendly follow-up in keeping with the later installments. Rather, they’ve given the original R-rated VACATION a full-fledged sequel complete with even raunchier jokes than the surprisingly racy original, which must be one of the most hilariously inappropriate family classics of all-time.

 

All that said, it’s too bad this new VACATION isn’t a better movie as, excepting a few inspired throwaway gags, this is yet another comedy that thinks outrageousness on its own is inherently funny. While the original was pretty filthy, it also had heart. You cared about the Griswolds and sympathized with harried family man Clark’s desire to spend quality time with his family. Here, VACATION trades heart for a strange sense of mean-spiritedness. This is far more in line with the recent hit WE’RE THE MILLERS than any of the original films, with Helms’ family man Rusty essentially Andy from The Office. You never sympathize with him, and he seems borderline insane right from the opening scene where he almost crashes a jet airliner.

His kids fare even worse, with Skyler Gisondo’s geeky older brother being the constant target for cruel jokes we’re supposed to laugh at, while the younger brother is portrayed as a budding psychopath –whose antics are supposed to be hilarious but never are. The only one who fares well is the always solid Christina Applegate as Rusty’s wife Debbie. She’s the only one that seems vaguely human, and she also gets the movie’s biggest laugh when the family makes a detour to her alma-matter and her sorority-girl past as Debbie “Do-Anything” gets revealed (she once slept with Anthony Hopkins).

 

Otherwise, the jokes are just too big or violent to be funny. For instance, the classic Christie Brinkley cameo is given a nod, with the payoff being that the girl in question now dies in a violent auto-wreck treated as an outrageous gag. In fact, several characters (and most memorably a cow) meet a violent end, which seems downright bizarre for a comedy.

Frustratingly, there are a few moments where VACATION really works. Daley and Goldstein get the movie off to a great start with the opening title sequence using Lindsay Buckingham’s ‘Holiday Road’ over a montage of funny family vacation photos, which seems to suggest a much more relatable comedy than the one we actually get. Some of the smaller parts are good, including Leslie Mann as Rusty’s sister Audrey and Chris Hemsworth as her Republican weatherman hubby. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo also make welcome cameos, although D’Angelo is so underused I don’t even remember her having a single line of dialogue.

While there are a handful of good laughs, VACATION can’t hold a candle to the original film and emerges as a surprisingly tone-deaf and mean-spirited comedy. R-rated comedies are great, but without heart or at least a sense of absurdity or anarchy they can fall flat. That certainly applies to this new VACATION, although it remains to be seen if this will be a deal breaker to modern audiences, who’ve turned worse comedies than this into box-office moneymakers.

Source: JoBlo.com

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