I have really enjoyed the Vacation movies. They are not only funny for the 80s, but much of the humor still holds up today. And Chevy Chase was gold back then! So, I checked out the new Vacation to see how it would hold up to the originals. Read on to find out how it was…
Vacation is a franchise dating back to 1983 when Chevy Chase first took the Griswold family on a cross-country drive from Chicago, Illinois, to Walley World in California. (Read the BFG review of the previous instalments in the Vacation franchise here: Holiday Road) Now, Rusty Griswold wants to relive the experience with his own wife and kids. And hopefully grow together as a family along the way.
Ed Helms (The Office, The Hangover) really does a good job at being a Griswold dad. Just as in the original National Lampoon’s Vacation, the dad is just a man trying to provide a fun experience for his family. Along the way, his own ignorance and bumbling, along with some unfortunate circumstances, lead the family into hilarious trouble. That is all present again in this take.
Christina Applegate (Married with Children, Anchorman) is the supportive wife and mother of the family. Unlike Ellen, Applegate’s Debbie has a definite character of her own. She has a past that Rusty is uncomfortable with and is quietly struggling in her marriage. Applegate does a great job of providing the heart for the family and still getting laughs.
Skyler Gisondo (Night at the Museum, Psych) plays James, the oldest of Rusty’s boys. His awkwardness works well in the Griswold family. His interests are not very manly and he is nervous around girls. Just as Christy Brinkley did in the original, a girl keeps popping up all across the country for James too. Catherine Missal does well as the pretty girl that James is awkwardly trying to impress.
The car is quite funny too. Just as the Family Truckster was basically a minor character in the first Vacation, the 2015 Tartan Prancer is just as important to the new plot. Billed as “The Honda of Albania,” the Prancer is full of curious buttons that each have comical results when pressed. It also has headlights and rearview mirrors on both ends!
The story was good. Many of the story elements were reworked from the original, but many were fresh to this film, giving it nice balance of retro and original ideas. There are dozens of references to the originals films, particularly the first Vacation. Some are obvious (Rusty looks at pictures from each of the movies), and some are not (Dad’s angry tirade aimed at his family). But they all work well.
What didn’t work?
Way. Too. Crude. I realize that the first two films were rated R, but they still didn’t go to the level of F-bomb dropping that this film sunk to. The sex, drugs and alcohol- related humor is rampant throughout. While I felt comfortable showing the first Vacations to my son (with some minor fast-forwarding), I did not and will not let him watch the newest film for many years.
The youngest son is obnoxious, offensive, disgusting, crude, rude, stupid, annoying, and not at all funny. His “laughs” are attempted primarily by his use of bad language and abuse of his brother. Get it through your head, Hollywood, crude children are not funny!!! I couldn’t stand this character.
Audrey Griswold is back played by Leslie Mann (Knocked Up, 17 Again). This Audrey is just kind of a sad character. She spends most of her screen time complaining about wanting to work or making over-the-top sexual comments to her husband. She is just too depressing for a comedy.
Did I mention how much I hated the youngest son? Soooooooooo much!
Somewhere in the middle of working and not working, was Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Star Trek), Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. Hemsworth was kind of funny, but far too obvious in his humor. The scene he will most be remembered for is just crude and dumb. Clark and Ellen Griswold make a cameo appearance as their original characters. But they are getting really old. Really. Chase does have classic Chevey Chase moments, such as getting a guitar out of a case and Febreezing a bed.
So verdict? It truly was funny. It went way too far in it’s use of cheap low-brow humor but was full of legitimately funny humor too. A PG-13 edit of this film would be perfect. Not surprisingly, this one is R. I’d only give 3 of 5 stars, mainly for the kid. (Oh, how I loathe him.)
Did you see it? Do you agree? Disagree? How does it hold up to the original for you? Comment me!