The Griswolds are back in Vacation, a remake/re-imagining of the popular National Lampoon’s Vacation series, most notably the 1983 original film, that starred Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. For this go-around we’ve got their son Rusty (Ed Helms) hoping to reconnect with his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and their two sons, Kevin and James (Steele Stebbins & Skyler Gisondo, respectively). by dragging them across then country to Walley World, the moose-themed amusement park. And in the process they’ll drag audiences along in an unfunny and mean-spirited debacle of a summer movie that manages to insult both the memory of the original movie and modern audiences.
During a dinner with the Petersons (Keegan-Michael Key and Regina Hall) Rusty overhears his wife complain about their annual trip to their cabin in Cheboygan, Michigan, which has become routine and predictable. Debbie wants adventure – she wants to see Paris, really – and yearns for something new in her life. Rusty’s solution for ‘different’ is to pack the family into a ridiculous 2015 Tartan Prancer, which he calls the “Honda of Albania”, and embark on a road trip similar to the one he took thirty-plus years ago in the original film to Walley World.
This is the part where I’d explain with plot, but there isn’t one. It’s a series of mishaps, each one more disgusting and laughless than the next. In fact, somewhere along the line my mental meter just stopped counting the unfunny moments: I think this movie broke it. Thanks, crappy Vacation movie!
The jokes are basic, and the comedy overly lewd, vulgar, and in bad taste (and this coming from a guy that enjoyed 1972’s Pink Flamingos!). Helms’ Rusty is too stupid and unlovable for us to even care what happens to him. At least in the original films his father, Clark (Chevy Chase), was believable as a domesticated dunce just wanting his family to have a memorable vacation trip, at any cost.
One of the most annoying aspects of the film is Kevin Griswold (Steele Stebbins), who plays Rusty’s son as an annoying bully, haphazardly mistreating his brother for no apparent reason. Of course, this is often how bullies act, but it’s just not funny, almost like the writing team didn’t even realize this. At least Stebbins seems to be enjoying himself, which probably says more about the pint-sized actor than anything.
And yes, as we glimpsed in the trailers, brief cameos by the original Griswolds, Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) only serve to remind us how superior the original trilogy of films were (we don’t count the fourth). Still, this new film feels karmic, like some ancient god that remembered how terrible the Griswolds are and decided to rain down a horrible vacation on them – and a terrible movie on us – as punishment for our misplaced faith this might have been more than a 99-minute pastiche of stupidity.
Vacation is a pointless remake/rehash, or whatever it is, that tries too top its predecessor, which wasn’t all that great to begin with. A terrible mix of ultra-low “comedy” and gross-out jokes easily make this one of year’s worst and most unpleasant experiences, and that’s saying something. This vacation runs out of gas before it even starts – maybe someone should have rigged it to blow at ignition.