Running Time: 99 minutes
Director Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley
Cast Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Leslie Mann, Charlie Day and Chris Hemsworth
TO say I didn’t have high hopes going into a recent press screening of Vacation, Warner Bros. attempted reboot of National Lampoon’s Vacation film series, would be a bit of an understatement. I’ve sat through some terrible comedy stinkers lately-Hot Pursuit, She’s Funny That Way and Will Ferrell’s Get Hard being some notable examples; so I really didn’t expect much from a film written and directed by the writing duo behind Horrible Bosses and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.
Despite my rather low expectations I actually enjoyed the movie-it’s no comedy classic by any means, but it’s nowhere near as bad as I’d thought it might’ve been! Yes it’s silly and stupid and very slapstick at times, some of the jokes don’t always hit their mark (especially the repeated attempts at a family sing-a-long to Seal’s Kiss From A Rose);but at least it made me laugh and that’s more than I can say about some of the other comedies I’ve watched this year.
The film stars Ed Helms and Christina Applegate, Helms plays Rusty Griswold, now all grown up and with a family of his own. He decides to follow in his father’s footsteps and take his wife Debbie (Applegate) and two sons, James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins), on a road-trip across America to Walley World. Rusty hopes that recreating his childhood vacation will let him reconnect with his sons and spice things up with his wife. Needless to say, things don’t go as planned.
They pile into their rented car, an Albanian Tartan Prancer, which features a bewildering array of remote-controlled gizmos and hit the road. Along the way there’s revelations about Debbie’s wild past, a white-water rafting trip from hell and an unforgettable dip in an unsavoury hot spring; sadly anyone who’s seen any of the film’s trailers will have had many of these gags spoiled for them.
As you’d expect there’s a string of cameo appearances along the way, with Chevy Chase and Beverley D’Angelo popping up to keep fans of the original movies happy; but we also have Leslie Mann, Charlie Day and Chris Hemsworth showing up; Hemsworth in particular is great, playing Stone Crandall, a TV weatherman and rancher who’s married to Rusty’s sister Audrey (Mann)– a scene with Hemsworth wearing nothing but his boxers will surely live long in the memory of many female viewers and gives a new meaning to the term Thor’s hammer.
Helms plays it rather straight throughout the movie, much like Chase in the previous Vacation movies he’s the stereotypical bumbling father. He’s got his family’s best intentions at heart and tries to do his best for them, but genuinely he fails horribly in the process. Personally I’ve always found him funnier when he’s playing against type, rather than as the outright straight-guy. Like his performance in We’re The Millers, where he played a deranged mob boss.
He plays creepy really well throughout this movie, particularly in one scene where Rusty bizarrely tries to be his eldest son’s wingman as he’s attempting to impress a young girl-it’s just so toe-curlingly cringe-worthy and feels like something that would appear in an episode of How to Catch a Predator. Sadly though there’s just no chemistry between Helms and his Married… With Children co-star, Applegate is a genuinely funny actress and whilst her character Debbie is much more likeable than Rusty; she’s just not given very much to do throughout the movie.
So whilst the new Vacation movie might’ve been better than I thought it would’ve been, it still doesn’t’ hold a candle to the 1983 original. Admittedly there’s a certain sense of sentimentality creeping in when I’m talking about the first Vacation movie, but I’m a huge John Hughes fan and have a real soft spot for Chevy Chase so I’m probably looking at it through rose-tinted glasses. Harold Ramis’ film took the screwball comedy formula away from the slackers and stoners and set it within the confines of a fairly average American family; much like National Lampoon’s other big movie Animal House, the first Vacation movie has become a genre-defining piece and established a comedic blue-print that’s been copied over and over again ever since.
So if you’re looking for some cheap laughs from your trip to the cinema then Vacation might just be the movie for you, it’s a serviceable comedy movie that might lack the big belly laughs of the original, but it’s still one of the better recently released comedies by a mainstream film studio.