Film Review – Vacation (2015)




Some collective sense of misplaced nostalgia seems to have retrospectively decided that the original National Lampoon’s Vacation was in fact a masterpiece, rather than an okay comedy road movie. The accompanying production notes for this reboot-cum-sequel have the cast waxing lyrical about what an honour it is to have such a mighty torch passed to them. The 1983 movie, it seems, is the pinnacle of comedy filmmaking. If it’s true that Harold Ramis’s original is such a treasure, I’m at a loss to understand why Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley have tarnished its memory with such a lacklustre follow-up. Occasionally nauseating, slightly schmaltzy and rarely amusing, Vacation is all things to no man; drab and lazy, and apparently of the opinion that flinging enough foul language at the audience will pass muster, or that paedophile jokes represent the cutting-edge of humour.

Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms), having clearly learned nothing from his father, decides to take his wife (Christina Applegate) and two kids (Skyler Gisondo & Steele Stebbins) on a cross-country drive to Walley World. In much the same fashion as the previous Vacation films, this allows the family to stumble along from one barely-connected comedy vignette to the next. The contrivance with which the family finds itself in ever-more ridiculous situations is unimportant. The trip itself is, of course, the simplest of devices by which to parachute the characters into increasingly alarming messes. So, wife ends up drunk on an obstacle course, younger brother makes older brother look an idiot in front of hot girl, husband and wife get caught having sex in public and the whole family takes a dip in a shit-filled pond. The idleness with which Vacation is constructed could be forgiven if the jokes hit home. Vacation’s most egregious flaw is that, by and large, it’s just not funny.

Ed Helms, plainly a funny man and accomplished comedy actor, is wasted as a one-note moron whose belligerence wears thin within moments. Christina Applegate is cast adrift by a script that refuses to offer her anything in the way of a joke, while the monstrously irritating kids, one sensitive, the other a psychopath, seem almost to be willing you to climb into the screen to administer a good throttling.

The one moment of relative merriment comes from Chris Hemsworth’s small role as a generously-endowed weatherman with a poor grasp of similes. That said, I’m half expecting us all to lose our senses 35 years from now and proclaim it a masterpiece. As I write, I’m mentally prepping myself for the 2050 remake starring one of the lads from Modern Family.

Chris Banks

Comedy | USA, 2015 | 15 | 21st August 2015 (UK) |Warner Bros UK |Dir.John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein |Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo,Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Chevy Chase, Leslie Mann, Beverly D’Angelo