UK Release Date: 21st August 2015
Runtime: 99 minutes
Director: John Francis Daley
Writer: John Francis Daley, Jonathan M Goldstein
Starring: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann, Chevy Chase
Synopsis: Rusty Griswold decides to take his family on a theme park trip, but they face numerous struggles on the way.
Does anyone actually have fond memories of National Lampoon’s Vacation? It seems to be a film that has gained the reputation of a classic without anyone really liking it. Trading on the bizarre reputation of the 1983 original is Vacation, in which The Hangover star Ed Helms plays the son of Chevy Chase’s patriarch in the first film.
Rusty Griswold (Helms) is desperate to prove to his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) that he is capable of taking her on a proper holiday. He decides to take her and their two children (Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins) to Walley World – mimicking the trip he was taken on by his father as a child. As disaster strikes along the way, they stop off to see Rusty’s sister Audrey (Leslie Mann) and her husband Stone (Chris Hemsworth).
Nothing about Vacation is funny. The film is a miserably lazy, episodic meander through a series of sketches that are either desperately unfunny or unbearably offensive. It seems that the writers were unsure whether they wanted to make a juvenile comedy for the Hangover crowd or something with a harder, more edgy feel. The two tones mesh awkwardly and leave the film something of a mess. It’s very difficult for a film to make gags about swimming in shit and then try to get the same relaxed laughs from death, rape and paedophilia.
| "I just wanted to sing Seal with my family like normal people."
Ed Helms has the look of a man clearly trying his best to make Vacation work, rather like the character he plays. However, the sheer famine of humour that is the film’s script never gives him room to do anything with the role. The same is true of Christina Applegate, who simply slots into the misogynistic “nagging wife” template that is depressingly prevalent in mainstream cinema.
Even worse than their adult counterparts are the two child stars at the centre of Vacation, who are both intensely irritating. In a continuation of the film’s terrible misogyny, Skyler Gisondo’s character is repeatedly – and, the film seems to think, hilariously – bullied by his much younger brother as a result of his being a sensitive, arty type rather than a masculine sportsman. Both actors simply turn everything up to eleven in the hope that this will make their jokes funnier. It doesn’t.
There’s also a worrying thread running through Vacation in which it tries to justify its own existence by making unsubtle references to the original film. An early scene, all over the trailer, involves the family around the breakfast table talking about how the new vacation will “stand on its own”. Done with a bit more finesse, it could have been a nice scene, but here it feels like a desperate attempt to remind the audience of the film that it seems to be convinced that they loved thirty years ago.
| "I’ve never even heard of the original vacation."
It’s tough to understand why Vacation even exists. It reboots a franchise that no one wants to see another entry of and indeed no one really liked in the first place. The modern trend for remakes and reboots comes in for a huge amount of criticism, but rarely is an example of that phenomenon so clearly redundant as Vacation. This is a film that thinks child rape, murder-suicide and Chris Hemsworth wearing a massive prosthetic penis is the height of comedy.
Pop or Poop?
With a terrible set of performances and an even worse script, Vacation is the prime example of a reboot that never needed to happen.
The jokes are either worryingly bland or much too dark for the film’s tone, leaving a bizarre confection that isn’t really funny for anyone.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.