The reboot of the Vacation franchise with Ed Helms at the center of the family tale plants itself firmly in the 21st century.
There’s not much in the way of nostalgia in this film that serves as a sequel to National Lampoon’s Vacation, a film that’s now 32 years old. Vacation, which starred Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as heads of the quintessential American nuclear family, surprised with its box office success back then.
There will be no such surprises allowed now. Perhaps that’s why the filmmakers – John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein – travel the route they do. With the Vacation title come expectations. It has to be funny with a hint of wholesomeness, but it has to be thoroughly modern also. A hip sensibility sits squarely at odds with that wholesome thing.
In this day and age, if filmmakers aren’t pushing the envelope, especially in comedies, their box office fate is sealed rather quickly. This edition of Vacation won’t be going down without a huge swing into the realm of gross.
Over three decades later, Rusty Griswold (gee, he looks nothing like Anthony Michael Hall) is a pilot at a regional airline. Now played by Helms, Rusty feels his family slipping away in various ways. His wife – Debbie (Christina Applegate) – looks for ways to spice up their marriage while Rusty remains clueless. One son might be considered wimpy by some. Considering he allows his foul-mouthed younger brother to bully him, this may be true.
They’re also getting to the point where the old man, who loves to sing Seal’s Kiss From a Rose, just isn’t that cool and neither is his annual jaunt to a cabin in the woods.
That being the case, Rusty gets the bright idea to take his family to Wallyworld, the magical, mystical place of his childhood as he tries, like his father before him, to bring his family closer.
From the screwed up car to the series of hapless situations, including the now infamous hot springs scene that has been used in trailers and commercials, things don’t go as planned for the Griswolds, a familiar happenstance.
However, the primary difference comes in just how in-your-face some of their misfortunes are. That’s the modern mentality taking over that ultimately dilutes and sense of good feeling that the film generates. There’s little denying that some of the situations provide gut-busting laughs in some instances (an appearance by Thor’s Chris Hemsworth is hilarious), but Vacation could use a touch more subtlety.
Helms and Applegate blend well together and Chase and D’Angelo make obligatory appearances to dispense parental wisdom.
For those who view the original through a nostalgic lens, you might find streaming it more to your liking. For those ready to strap in for a ride through the crass and crude – climb aboard.
Directors: John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein
Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Leslie Mann, Chris Hemsworth
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rated: R for crude and sexual content and language throughout, and brief graphic nudity
Running time: 99 minutes
George’s rating: 3-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com