Starring: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemworth, Leslie Mann
Directed by: Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley
Release Date: July 29th,2015
Rated R for strong language throughout, brief nudity and some violence
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, is comedy gold. It has achieved cult status and received widespread critical acclaim. You can often catch it making the rounds on late-night cable TV. For those of you who have been living under a cinematic rock, the original Vacation tells the story of the Griswold family’s ill-fated trip to Walley World, a fictional theme park in Santa Monica, California. Who knew family bonding could inspire so much belly laughter and Schadenfreude?
In the 2015 not-quite-sequel, not-quite-remake, Rusty Griswold (who was played as a child by Anthony Michael Hall in the original) is all grown up and bent on taking his own family to Walley World to bond with them. His two sons ( Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins) are constantly at each other’s throats, and his wife Debbie (Applegate) is bored and frustrated. Naturally, getting everyone in a car together for a week straight is a great idea. Like its source material, the road to Walley World is filled with hijinks, mishaps and disasters. And like its source material, the laughs keep coming and they don’t stop until the credits roll.
However, I will point out that while I enjoyed the shoutouts to the original film (especially red convertible girl), this film felt completely unnecessary. The directors, who are the same team behind Horrible Bosses, seemed to feel the need to cram as many cringeworthy, offensive, and disgusting gags in the runtime as they could. I still don’t understand why Hollywood finds sexism and pedophilia jokes mandatory in R-rated comedies, but maybe that’s just my inner social justice warrior showing. There were also a few moments in the film I found downright cringe-worthy. One in particular was the scene in which the older son is awkwardly trying to woo a girl at a motel hot tub and his father decides to play wingman. By “wingman”, I mean he comes off as a deranged pervert, thereby scaring the girl away and an overhearing motel patron.
Thus far, Ed Helms has proven that he is excellent as a supporting actor (see: the first Hangover and We’re the Millers) but he doesn’t quite have the acting chops or comedic talent to carry a film. Christina Applegate, who is a very talented actress otherwise, isn’t given much to do but be the typical bored middle-aged housewife, and she infuses the part with a thinly veiled sense of treachery. Did I enjoy the film? Yes, immensely. Do I believe it will be a classic? Absolutely not. If you’re looking for a fun, simple popcorn film chock-full of laughs, this is it. Try not to gape too much at Chris Hemsworth’s *ahem* six-pack.