VACATION (USA/15A/99mins)
Directed by Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley. Starring Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Chris Hemsworth, Kaitlin Olson, Chevy Chase, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins
THE PLOT: Ed Helms stars as Rusty Griswold, a man whose only dream is to take his family on a nostalgic holiday to Walley Word, where he spent holidays as a kid. Of course, nothing goes right along the road, and it is not long before the dream holiday turns into a nightmare.
THE VERDICT: In case you didn’t see the original National Lampoon VACATION films, the first was released in 1983, and starred Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold – Rusty’s father. Written by John Hughes and directed by Harold Ramis, the film, and its sequels, focused on the Griswold family trying unsuccessfully to have an uneventful family holiday. This latest film serves as a reboot and a prequel to the original series of films.
Ed Helms and Christina Applegate are two actors with buckets of charm and precise comic timing, and this is certainly on display from both throughout the film. The story may not be a stretch for either actor, but it is clear that they had a lot of fun making this silly and over the top movie. Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins play James and Kevin Griswold and there is a decent joke between the two, where the younger son bullies his older brother throughout the film. The rest of the cast comprises of cameos from some of film and TVs biggest stars at the moment, including Kaitlin Olson, Charlie Day, Chris Hemsworth, Ron Livingston, Regina Hall, Keegan-Michael Key, Leslie Mann and Nick Kroll. Of course, Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo turn up too.
The story, written for the screen by Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley, is reminiscent of the original 1983 film, as it focuses on a man desperate to create the perfect holiday for his family. The situations the family find themselves in are often ridiculous and over the top, but not always as funny as they should be. As well as this, since the family drift from one disaster to the next, the film often feels episodic, and lacks a cohesive feel. That said, there are nice nods to the original, with Rusty flirting with a woman in a red sports car – just as his father did in the original film – and an entertainingly self aware conversation among the family about how this vacation will stand part from the original.
As directors Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley allow the family to bounce from one plot point to the next, but don’t always manage to draw the humour out of the situations they find themselves in. The film is well paced for the most part, but audience sympathy for these obstinate characters who seem only too delighted to make deliberate mistakes begins to wane toward the end of the film; perhaps there is one joke too many, or perhaps Chevy Chase’s small but hilarious role shows the rest of the film in a less favourable light.
In all, VACATION is light and silly, but lacks some of the charm and warmth of the original. There is enough to laugh at here to keep the audience engaged, but the over the top jokes and scenarios begin to wear thin by the final act of the film, and a lot of the jokes don’t land quite as well as they should. In 1983, this style of film felt fresh and new, but in 2015, it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’ve seen this all before.
RATING: 2.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Review by Brogen Hayes
  • filmbuff2011

    Running from 1983 – 1997, the four Chevy Chase ‘Vacation’ films provided laughs and chuckles aplenty involving the mishaps of the not-too-bright Griswold family. Though, the laughs gradually decreased with each sequel. Not so much a reboot as a continuation, the 2015 Vacation aims high and hits a little off the mark. Now fortysomething, Clark’s son Rusty (Ed Helms) is a high-flying pilot with a low-cost airline. He has a loving if somewhat distracted wife in Debbie (Christina Applegate) and two boys – the sheepish James (Skyler Gisondo) and the obnoxious Kevin (Steele Stebbins). He finds it hard to get the family together to do fun things, so he hits on the idea of a nostalgic trip back to Wally World, travelling once again from Chicago to California. The others go along with the idea, so the Griswolds all hit the road in their eccentric Albanian car. Along the way, the Griswolds will encounter aggressive truck drivers, arguing cops, a heart-broken tour guide, bitchy sorority sisters and show-off weatherman Stone (Chris Hemsworth) and his wife Audrey (Leslie Mann). It’s going to be a long and memorable experience for the Griswolds… Expectations were somewhat low for this new take on this next generation of the infamous Griswold family. It’s coming at the tail end of summer and is co-directed by first-timers John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, the writers on the two Horrible Bosses films. So, it’s a pleasant surprise to report that it’s better than anticipated, though not as good as one would hope for. It’s a dumb film for sure, relying heavily on audience goodwill towards the actors and an ever-increasing range of sight gags, a good bit of which has already been revealed in the trailer. But if you can forgive those flaws, you might find yourself getting into the Griswold groove and simply enjoying it for what it is. There are running gags throughout the film, some of which never tire, like Kevin’s constant bullying of his older, bigger brother (a neat subversion there, which is then amusingly turned back on its head) and some bizarre ones like cannibalistic cows. Having Chase and Beverly D’Angelo reprise their roles from the originals is a nice touch – you can see the torch being passed on here. Though, in this case the torch would most likely explode and start a neighbourhood-destroying fire. That would be very Griswold. Helms makes an appealing Rusty, dim but firmly committed to his family. Hemsworth has a lot of fun with his over-the-top character – he should do more comedy. It may not always work, but this is surely a Vacation worth taking. ***

  • emerb

    “Vacation” is a follow up to the surprise 1983 hit “National Lampoon’s Vacation”, written by John Hughes and starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. As a child of the 1980’s, that movie brings back memories of much riotous humour and many laugh out loud scenes. For me, trying to improve on that road-trip comedy is just a pointless exercise. Hollywood has given us so many reboots/sequels this summer (Avengers, Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible, Terminator) that it’s starting to get tiresome and this feels like just another in a very long list. As all the actors are different here, with the exception of Chevy
    Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, who appear briefly, it’s not exactly a sequel but more a retailoring of the movie for a new generation. Written and directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, the new “Vacation” is a bit better than I had had expected but certainly not as good as I had hoped. A number of the sequences are inventive but, while amusing in parts, it’s just not consistently funny, not memorable and has no real story to tell. The road-trip concept is really just an excuse to string together a series of dumb and very random gags combined with excruciating, awkward situations. Sadly it didn’t work for me.

    This time, it’s the Griswolds’ grown-up son, Rusty (Ed Helms), in place of Chevy Chase in the driver’s seat. Rusty works as a pilot for a bargain-basement commuter airline that connects Chicago to far-off destinations like South Bend, Indiana. He still remembers the wonderful vacation he went on with his family back in the 1980s and, eager to bring his dysfunctional clan closer together, he decides to re-create that same 2,500-mile trip to the Disneyland-inspired amusement park “Walley World”, the site of his never-forgotten teenage vacation. He is a decent Dad and he just wants his family to be happy but feels distanced from his resigned wife (Christina Applegate) and his bickering sons (Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins). Thinking it will promote family bonding, he rents a special car for the cross-country road adventure and insists on dragging them all along for the ill-advised odyssey. The car itself is a bizarre Albanian hybrid with a variety of silly features that the film often resorts to for laughs when things slow down. The family is reluctant to go – his wife sceptical and his sons downright hostile. The rest of the film is just a succession of scenes in which the family stops somewhere and at every detour they are met with horrors and humiliations. There are hits and misses. For instance, there is a memorable stop at a hot-springs rest area where line-jumping lands the Griswolds in hot water.
    There is also a visit to Rusty’s sister, Audrey (Leslie Mann) and her hunk, lusty weatherman husband, Stone (Chris Hemsworth), a motel and the Grand Canyon.

    It helps that the actors are game and well-cast. Ed Helms and Christina Applegate, who play the couple, are skilled comedy veterans and have a good sparky relationship. Helms does a nice job as the Vacation patriarch and captures the essence of the dorky but well-meaning character. He brings humour and a sense of sincerity to the role while also making Rusty seem like a fellow
    with serious emotional problems. Much of the comedy comes at his expense, as he repeatedly makes a fool out of himself. Applegate is good too, she has excellent comic timing and surely gives us the summer’s best vomit scene. The sons come close to stealing the movie and a running gag, in which the tiny younger brother (Steele Stebbins) beats up on and terrorizes the sweet-natured, sensitive older brother (Skyler Gisondo) is really very funny. Chase and D’Angelo don’t do much, but it’s nice to see them reprise their roles as the Griswold patriarch and matriarch.

    “Vacation” is not a terrible movie but, while intermittently funny, it just doesn’t work as a whole. There are a few choice moments that you will remember but for the most part, it feels featureless and repetitive. Sometimes it works, such as when the family visits Debbie’s old sorority house, where surprising secrets about her past clash with her current mom identity. More often than not, the
    gags are either too lame or too cringey to be genuinely funny and too much
    of the humour is obsessed with sex and bodily fluids. While “Vacation” 2015 follows the basic template of its predecessor, it has been adapted for modern standards of vulgarity and raunchiness. The result is a comedy that ends up bawdier and less likeable than the classic which inspired it.