VACATION (7 out of 10). Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, Written by John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, Based on National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) created by John Hughes and Harold Ramis , Starring Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann, Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Rated R for “crude and sexual content and language throughout, and brief graphic nudity (male)”, In wide release July 29, 2015
“Vacation” is that weird mix of sequel and reboot that makes it neither and both, but channels the bawdy, yet sentimental spirit of the original into a comedy that stands on its own and as a great addition to what had been a largely fallow franchise.
The only real problem with this film is that half of its jokes and best moments are revealed in that amazing trailer. But the other half are, at least some of them, even better. In any case, like the film itself, it’s not the destination, but the journey.
Ed Helms plays Rusty Griswold, the (fifth?) actor to take that role, but this time he’s all grown up. With his family stuck in a rut, he decides to take them on a trip to Wally World, just like his dad did decades ago.
“So you want to redo your vacation from 30 years ago?”
“We’re not redoing anything. This will be completely different.”
“I haven’t even heard of the original vacation.”
“Doesn’t matter. The new vacation will stand on its own.”
And hijinks ensue.
Nasty, sexual, dirty, scatological, bloody, drunken, foul-mouthed, R-rated hijinks. Oh yeah, did you notice this movie was rated R? Yup. It earns it, and in spades.
One of the less offensive, but still funny, main recurring gags includes their strange rental car, which almost takes on a life of its own. Another involves a trucker (who may or may not be a child rapist?) who seems to be stalking the Griswolds, climaxing with one of the most satisfying cameos in recent movie history.
The kids fight, but in a hilarious role reversal, the younger brother bullies the awkward, older teen. This also provides some of the best comedy of the film: you can’t go wrong in comedy with foul-mouthed kids saying awful things and abusing one another (and we have 17 seasons of South Park to prove it). The older son also keeps running into the same girl, which leads to some awkwardness and romantic sparks. But mostly awkwardness.
Speaking of romance, we also explore some of the vagaries of adulthood and marriages going a little stale. Christina Applegate does an amazing job as she goes down memory lane, visiting her old college and sorority, to how much her brother-in-law (Chris Hemsworth) is hitting on her. (A LOT, it turns out. One of the best scenes involves Hemsworth wearing only a pair of extremely tight boxer briefs. Yowza!)
There’s a recurring gag about how all of the Griswold parents’ attempts to get a little nookie keep getting foiled by various things. This culminates with an attempt to kanoodle in four states at once at the Four Corners monument, which is hands down the best scene of the movie. Residents of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico should all laugh and prepare to be offended at the insults and stereotypes hurled at their respective states.
But the movie does have some rough patches. Specifically near the end when they feel it necessary to reunite Rusty with his parents. Chevy Chase makes us forget he was ever funny with his ability to suck the joy out of these parts… And the movie decides it wants to resolve its plot lines and be more sentimental… Boo.
But when they finally make it to Wally World ( spoiler alert?) it gets good again.
And then it’s over. But with promises of possible sequels, we probably have not seen the last of Rusty Griswold and his family. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of Clark, though.
7 out of 10
PS– These are the guys writing your next Spider-Man movie. Should be funny.