Movie Review: Vacation

I knew Vacation came out on Tuesday. Unlike Entourage I kept my self appraised and planned accordingly to catch the early showing. But as I got dressed to leave, it literally rained piss from my ceiling. Apparently, my neighbor upstairs did not realize the tank on his toilet was backing up before I banged on his door. Thankfully maintenance showed up the next day to dehumidify the ceiling. As I type this on my couch there are a number of fans blasting air in my bedroom.

* * *

Blockbuster fatigue is a feeling where the amount summer movies becomes overwhelming. If I had blockbuster fatigue I would not have liked Ant-Man as much as I did. What I have is remake/sequel fatigue because the idea of a creatively bankrupt film industry stealing good ideas from the past is horrifying. Remakes/sequels are the reason I dread being a critic and it has gotten so bad I would quit if this were not important. Fury Road and Dumb and Dumber To are the exception, but after Terminator Genisys I saw the gradual degradation of originality and I cannot take it anymore. Was Vacation the final straw or is there some semblance of hope for the future?

I do not think sequels/remakes will break me until the release of the new Ghostbusters. Even now I am bracing myself and contemplating what I will say, but that is a review for another time. It is difficult to judge follow-ups without considering the previous installments. Some are so dear to our hearts it is difficult to remember all art must be seen for what they are alone and Vacation has enough merit to stand in contrast to the first.

After realizing his family is drifting apart, Rusty Griswold, played by Ed Helms, decides to take his family on a road trip to Wally World to reenact the trip he took thirty years earlier. Shenanigans ensue.

Vacation is a celebration and subversion of the first film from 1983. There are some barrowed plot points, but there is enough difference to make it unique. Like Dumb and Dumber To, it knows it will never be as good as the first and acts accordingly, making jokes and story elements relevant to today while paying homage. In terms of a modern comedy it would border on classic if there were no connection to the original.

For once the jokes are actual jokes with real set-ups and pay offs. Insult and shock humor is present throughout, but not to extent it takes over the entire film like Spy and other terrible comedies. Even if you have seen the red-band trailer where some of the better jokes are spoiled, there is a lot throughout that makes up for it.

The main cast had great chemistry and brought their own personal touches to the characters. Helms plays Rusty like Clark Griswold with that always optimistic in the face of adversity attitude and stalwart positivity. Christina Applegate plays an active role as the wife Debbie and holds her own like her time in the Anchorman movies. The two son characters played by Skylar Gisondo and Steele Stebbins worked well with the leads while being exceptional on their own.

The various cameos were almost better than the main cast. In the second half they become more frequent and really shine through each time they are on screen. Chris Hemsworth takes over the role of Cousin Eddie as Uncle Stone, the exact opposite of Randy Quaid. Charlie Day’s scene as a rafting guide is reason alone to see this movie. The venerable Chevy Chase shows up and makes the best of it as an elderly Clark running a bed and breakfast with Beverly D’Angelo returning as Ellen.

While Vacation is good overall, there are some negatives that warrant mention. CG is used for a car roll and a fly-over of another on a road. No, seriously. The most common car-shots ever and they used CG. Another part was that scene with Hemsworth. It was shot long and intercut with reactions to Rusty and Debbie when it would have been funnier uncut from start to finish.

Of all the recent comedies I have seen, Vacation is second below Ant-Man. If you are a fan of the original, give it a look. If you have never heard of the Griswolds, see it anyway. You will not be disappointed.

 

 

Vacation, Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Charlie Day, Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein

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