MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Vacation’ Isn’t Worth The Trip Down Holiday Road


Film: Vacation
Starring: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Chris Hemsworth
Directed by: Jonathan M. Goldstein, John Francis Daley

Vacation–the successor to the last entry in the National Lampoon comedy series–opens on a series of pictures depicting seemingly idyllic families enjoying their vacations. In ye olde National Lampoon fashion, there are also a few visual gags centered on puking and erections (luckily, not in the same frame). From the get-go, this spiritual sequel (reboot? who cares?) is already trying to bring back the kind of humor that made the original quadrilogy so famous. Instead of relying on sight gags and absurdist humor (there’s an incest gag in the original film, people), Vacation follows a new family versed in more smarm than charm.

Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) finds that his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), and two sons, James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) are stuck in neutral in every day life. Upon the eve of their yearly miserable vacation to a cabin in Michigan, Rusty comes up with an idea that will bring his family back together: take them to Walley World like Rusty’s father, Clark (Chevy Chase), did when he was a kid. Hijinks then ensue on the long road from Chicago to San Francisco when Rusty’s good but oblivious nature drive the family into seemingly comedic but uncomfortable situations.

Vacation is designed to be a laugh-a-minute comedy, raising the bar on jokes in quick succession so that the viewer won’t know what hit them when things come to a lull. The problem here is that the laughs are too few and bar between as droning lulls take over the 100-minute runtime. The film takes a meta route in the beginning, blatantly addressing that the film is indeed a sequel of some sorts and that it will stand on its own despite being tied to predecessors. Sure, this worked for 21 and 22 Jump Street. The problem here is that although the film desires to veer off course, it’s not the right one to be taken. It’s much more interested in doling out mean-spirited jokes revolving around things like Debbie’s sexually explorative past and James’ awkward inability to understand anything about puberty and growing up. The gags thrown around demean the characters instead of functioning as some quirky or offbeat quality, making the moments of emotional conflict fall flat.

Where the original family functioned as an understanding caricature of the normal picturesque family with issues, this one relies on gross-out gags to keep the wheels rolling. Luckily, there’s a steady stream of cameos to deter your attention from whatever dumb thing the Griswold family takes part in next. The saving grace of the film comes in the form of Leslie Mann and Chris Hemsworth, who play Rusty’s sister and her husband. Mann and Hemsworth seem attuned to the shoddy material, heightening themselves to the lofty caricatures that the material calls for, milking every worthy morsel out of their presence. Plus, as you may well know, Leslie Mann is so flawlessly great at bringing humanism to the most crazed of situations. Also, Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo (the original Griswold patriarch and matriarch) show up for a quick cameo to restore faith in Rusty that he’s a good father doing the right thing. Must have been a nice paycheck. When you wait until this releases on Blu-ray and DVD, because you should, fast-forward to the end to watch a really funny fist-fight between the Griswolds and another family to the tune of Sleigh Bells’ “Crown on the Ground.”

Vacation isn’t the worst thing to happen to comedy recently. Seriously, I hope not to see hot-takes on the film decrying “it ruined my childhood!” this weekend. After all, this one is written and directed by the same guys behind Horrible Bosses 2. So it could definitely be worse.


Review written by: Sam Cohen (Follow him on Twitter!)

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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