This Vacation needed to hit the road
Vacation is one of those truly miserable comedies where it’s easier to count how often it earns genuine laughs. There won’t be many in this remake no one one demanded. Gone is the witty, relatable humor of the beloved series starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. Instead, the filmmakers opt to travel down Painfully Unfunny Blvd.
The most skilled members of this production was the wunderkinds who crafted the trailer. Their work made it seem like this continuation could actually be funny. That comes at the expense of ruining most of the film’s best jokes. Of course sacrifices have to be made somewhere to trick audiences to forking over their cash to see this stinker.
Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms, The Hangover Part III) needs to re-energize his family. His marriage to Debbie (Cristina Applegate) in a rut and his sons, James (Skyler Gisondo, The Amazing Spider-Man) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) are constantly arguing. Time to do what his father taught him and go on a cross-country road trip. Destination? Walley World — America’s favorite theme park.
Predictably, things start going haywire almost immediately. Their rental car, the Tartan Prancer, seems to have a mind of its own. A disastrous stop at a natural spring leads them to a detour to Rusty’s sister, Audrey (Leslie Mann, The Other Woman), and her husband, Stone (Chris Hemsworth, Avengers: Age of Ultron).
Hemsworth is fun in playing off his chiseled physique as a hardcore cowboy that’s a little too touchy with Debbie. Hemsworth won’t make you forget Randy Quaid’s Cousin Eddie, but he’s the most inspired cast member. Mann, frustratingly, is thoroughly wasted. The trailers tease a greater role for them, but they’re in the film for less than 10 minutes.
Helms is as dutiful as ever in trying to make even the worst scene work. Applegate proves a willing partner in scene salvaging. For their efforts alone, they deserved a better project.
The most annoying part of the film is the sense that co-directors/screenwriters Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) could have made at least a decent 2015 update to the 1983 original. But they consistently take the easy way out. Goldstein and Daley always opt for a cheap raunchy gag. Characters behave in outlandish fashion just to be over the top and obnoxious.
Even then, a lot could have worked with an iota of subtlety, but Goldstein and Daley are all about taking every joke to the extreme. That means a bombardment of projectile vomiting, penis jokes and a scene where the characters are bathing in sewage — a meta moment that perfectly describes the experience of watching this movie.
On the plus side, the film is just over 90 minutes so Goldstein and Daley don’t have a lot of time to linger over bad jokes. To ease the pain somewhat, the film goes heavy on cameos. Keegan-Michael Key, Charlie Day, Ron Livingston, Regina Hall, Michael Pena and Norman Reedus drop in presumably for cashed in favors.
None will be as satisfying to Vacation fans as Chase and D’Angelo reprising their roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold now operating a bed and breakfast.
It’s telling that I’d much rather watch the exploits of B&B Clark and Ellen than another second of Vacation. This is one debacle you’d be better off turning this car around and skipping.
Rating: 1 out of 10
Pictures credit: Hopper Stone/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.