The Vacation reboot leaves something to be desired. While the film has redeemable moments, it takes far too long for it to start being charming. It struggles to find what will make it a good movie. It overplays jokes, or uses ones that miss the mark because the audience does not understand them. While it can be viewed as a fun night out, it is not a movie you will be rushing to the store to purchase so that you can watch it over and over again.
The writers clearly believed that audiences only enjoy overly crude jokes and stick to solely those during the opening few minutes of the film. While dry humor definitely gets chuckles, it is hard to stay engaged through the beginning of this film while you wait for something belly-laugh worth to happen. The action alone drags in the beginning, and the addition of the crass jokes to mask this only makes things worse. Eventually the humor in the film finds its niche and it is easy to overlook the scattered tomfoolery.
Some of the jokes do not work for other reasons. Multiple comedic portions of this movie rely on the audience to have seen the original National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) in order to understand the references that are being made. In one of the opening scenes, Ed Helms’ character Rusty Griswold flat out tells his family — in short, telling the audience — that “this vacation will be nothing like the original vacation”. He openly sites that the main difference is because he and his wife have two boys, whereas the first film had a male and female child. It does not even cleverly allude to the 1983 comedy. The script just openly talks about how they plan to make this film stand on their own. It is annoying, but also leaves viewers who did not watch the thirty-two year old film confused as to what is being discussed.
One of the things that saves this film from being a complete disappointment is the use of cameos. In almost every scene, the surprise array of actors outshine the main cast that was selected to spearhead this reboot. When the credits roll, you find yourself thinking how crazy it is that so-and-so showed up, instead of thinking of what big stars like Helms and Christina Applegate brought to their roles.
The film has an underlying heartwarming message, that ultimately makes the movie watchable. These rare moments make every joke you cringed at worthwhile. There just was not enough balance between these rare moments and solid jokes to make this a memorable movie.