Release date: July 29, 2015
Written and directed by: John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein
Starring: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbons, Leslie Mann, and Chris Hemsworth, with Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo.
The new “Vacation” relies on a wink and a nod self-awareness with the audience. It’s aware that it’s a reboot and that it is competing with the audience’s fond memories of the 1983 classic. But nostalgia isn’t enough to endear this immature, vulgar, but sometimes funny reboot to loving memory the way we fell for Chevy Chase, Clark Griswold, and his family back in the day.
Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms, the fifth actor to play the character), is all grown up now with his own miserable life and equally miserable family. In an effort to break them out of their funk, he decides to re-create his favorite childhood memory, the road trip to Wally World. His wife Debbie (a down to clown Christina Applegate) would rather go to Paris, his boys are too busy fighting – the younger bullies the older for playing a guitar and writing poetry — and would rather stay home rather than spend a moment in the same car together.
But like his father, Russ is determined to make memories and falls into some of the same pratfalls – and some way over the top raunchy new ones – as his family did when he was younger. Packing everyone into a Tartan Prancer — “the Honda of Albania”, Rusty hauls the family, the long way by the way, to Texas to see his sister Audrey (Leslie Mann) and her hunky God of Thunder husband, played by Chris Hemsworth, having way too much fun – before heading west to Wally World.
The thing is, the original “Vacation” was a funny, awkward, but sweet comedy that revived memories of our own family road trip nightmares. This is more like someone saw “We’re the Millers” and said, “Let’s remake ‘Vacation’!”. Plus, it was, at the time the perfect vehicle – pardon the pun – for Chevy Chase’s comedy. Every now and then, Helms manages to channel the same desperation of a man who just wants his family to have a memory they cherish together, but it just never feels the same – and without that heart driving the movie, it makes it a little less fun to watch the Griswolds suffering through the punishment of a family vacation.
John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein (“Horrible Bosses”), who share both writing and directing credits, throw as many jokes as they can at the screen. But between all the gross out gags involving puking beer, swimming in raw sewage, and Chris Hemsworth’s huge…um, six pack…there is little time to find a reason to like any of the new characters.
Part of the problem is they, or the studio – who are we blaming for this – seems more intent on tapping into the nostalgia and setting up references to the previous movies, rather than the nostalgia of the family road trip. Even a cameo from Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo feels trite and unnecessary by the time they finally pop up in the third act.
“Vacation” is as raunchy and crude as most comedies today. There are plenty of laughs, but, it just doesn’t have the heart that the first film had. Just like a real cross-country road trip, there just aren’t enough magical moments to justify the time spent in the car, and it just can’t end nearly as quickly as you’d like it to.
Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes
MPAA rating: R for crude and sexual content and language throughout, and brief graphic nudity