Release Date: July 29, 2015
Director: John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein
Writer: Jonathan M. Goldstein, John Francis Daley
Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann, Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Charlie Day, Catherine Missal, Ron Livingston, Norman Reedus, Keegan-Michael Key, Regina Hall, Emyri Crutchfield, Alkoya Brunson, Nick Kroll
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 99 mintues
Production Company: BenderSpink, David Dobkin Productions, New Line Cinema, Warner Brothers
Genre: Adventure, Comedy
Even if I tried, I couldn’t tell you which of the original National Lapoon’s Vacation series is my favorite. They each have something unique and special about them. So that’s probably why Warner Brothers decided to make a remake of these classics.
When I heard about this, I was skeptical, but optimistic. Especially when I found out who the cast was, and how in a way it’s a sequel to the previous chapters. What’s done well can’t always be repeated, and the 2015 Vacation proves just that. The movie is still funny at points, and a few moments make you scream out loud with laughter, but there are some points that are absolutely abysmal. I care absolutely nothing for this family, their journey, or growth, and by the time I started to care, it was already too late. Vacation isn’t a horrible film, but in my opinion, you’ll at least need to be intoxicated in some sense to make it worth your while.
Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) is all grown up, and it’s now his turn to take the responsibility of taking his family on a vacation. In the original Vacation films, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) was a natural doofus with sprinkles of innocence. The shenanigans he took part in made you sympathize with him, for he simply did not know any better. It was his effort that counted, and his warm heart that made you care. I loved his family and were completely on board for the ride.
That same sentiment is not recreated in this remade attempt of vacation happiness. The family seems as disjointed as a man with eight knee caps. You could make the argument that all families bicker and argue, but the Griswolds here don’t even feel like a family at all. I didn’t buy the husband and wife as a real couple. The youngest child needs a lobotomy, for being so vulgar and disrespectful, and the oldest boy was purposely acting remedial. There was nothing likeable about them, as they’re forced to go on vacation, and we, the audience, are forced to witness this. The worst part was the performance of the younger child. He used too much profanity and nothing was done. I can’t get behind that type of characterization.
All I wanted to do was laugh at the random silliness on screen. It isn’t much to ask for, and came in bits in pieces. Initially, the comedy did seem promising, but after a while it began to peter out. The situations the family faced weren’t realistic. I felt that the Ed Helms character was purposely sabotaging the trip due to the outcome. The decision that motivated this in the film isn’t clear. He keeps leading his family astray, forcing their hand, and he’s completely oblivious to it.
It’s like his head is up his rear end the first two thirds of the film, all for the sake of comedy that isn’t funny. The comedy feels forced at times. What makes life funny and everything in it, is when it’s natural. Adolescent boys screaming vulgar profanities every few minutes does not seem like a naturally funny situation. It felt like the director told the older Griswold child to “act like you never know what’s going on.” He succeeded in this task completely, but it didn’t help the flow of the film.
Toward the end, Rusty was honest with himself and everyone around him. It was at this point Vacation became the movie it was supposed to be from the beginning. I actually started to care about their journey and destination. I finally cared about the family and wanted them to grow. I could see more sequels down the line if this path was taken initially. The warm feeling from the original films was present, but it was all too late. At this point, the film is over and there were too many wrongs to make right. All that was left was blank jokes that have no substance or meaning. Just an ending that’s inevitable that you can’t wait to reach. If only the writers would’ve taken this approach the whole time, they might have had a winner on their hands.
With expectations being low for the Vacation reboot/remake, it was still a disappointment. As quoted in the trailer, the Vacation movie is supposed to stand on its own. It was on its own, but it wasn’t standing. It’s a poor attempt to remake a classic that should have been left alone. Now the stench of failure will haunt the entire franchise, and nothing can be done about it. There were some redeeming qualities toward the end, but it was all too late. I think that if as much effort were put into the script as the marketing, this would easily be a film that everyone could recommend.