By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
The original National Lampoon’s Vacation is probably one of the first, more adult-oriented comedies I saw on cable TV (though I wasn’t really supposed to be viewing it) and it made quite an impression. I already knew of the comedic talent of Chevy Chase and had already enjoyed some of his work on SNL and more PG-rated fare that my parents allowed me to watch, but had never before experienced a film quite like this one. Directed by Harold Ramis and written by John Hughes, Ramis, and Chase, the 1983 Vacation offers a lovely mix of slapstick, sexually suggestive humor, and just plain smartly written comedy. After three theatrical sequels and two non-theatrical ones, writer/directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley attempt to revitalize the series with a movie that has more direct ties with the original film than any of the other sequels. Their film is often funny, but, in no way, tops the hilarious comedy executed in the first film.
Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) is now an adult with a family of his own. Much like his father Clark (Chevy Chase) before him, Rusty wants to have a close bond with his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate), and his sons James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Sebbins). However, Rusty’s dorky and clumsy attempts to maintain that bond with his family often fails. Desperate to reinvigorate their relationship, he decides to follow in his father’s footsteps and drive his family to Walley World. Much like the trip he once shared with his father, mother, and sister, things don’t exactly go according to plan.
Goldstein and Daley have succeeded in making a funny movie that relies more on raunchy and sophomoric humor than the original film which feels rather mild these days. Their reliance on dirty jokes and shock humor will no doubt turn some audiences off, but I have to say, I had some good laughs watching it. Not all of the jokes work, but plenty do. I was rather annoyed that some of the funnier gags were ruined by the red band trailer. I am rather selective when it comes to watching trailers, but this one was unavoidable as it played during a screening for another film. So for those looking to have nothing in this film spoiled for them whatsoever, it would be best to avoid all trailers for this movie.
The casting department have made some great choices for the film. As the two sons James and Kevin, Gisondo and Sebbins both perform well and have great comic timing. Chris Hemsworth has some great scene-stealing moments as Rusty’s brother-in-law Stone Crandall. I have to say that I cannot see anyone else that can top Ed Helms’ performance as Rusty Griswold because he manages to capture the heart and spirit and Chevy Chases’ Clark Griswold and naturally portray it as if he were really the offspring of that lovable doofus.
The movie also stars Christina Applegate, Leslie Mann (Audrey Crandall) and Ron Livingston, but these talented actors don’t really get to do too much in the film. Applegate gets the most screen time out of all of these actors; however, Daley and Goldstein don’t really make her all that interesting, despite a gag about her character’s past. The talented and hilarious Keegan Michael Key has a moderately funny scene in the film, but unfortunately, it doesn’t last too long.
As for my recommendations regarding this movie, I think fans of the series who can handle a raunchier Vacation movie will love this new film. For those with more delicate constitutions, it might be best to stay away. I feel the movie is a fun and often funny addition to the series, and is definitely better than some of the very weak installments (European Vacation, Vegas Vacation, etc.). Still, as much as I liked the movie, it will never top the original movie or even Christmas Vacation.