“Vacation” is a worthy semblance of the Chevy Chase originals as Ed Helms (“The Hangover”) helms the doomed ship driving the next generation of Griswolds.
Helms plays grown-up Dusty Griswold, who simply wants to take his family on the vacation of a lifetime to Walley World on a cross-country road trip from Illinois to California. Keeping true to the original Griswold family formula, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
The movie starts off with the Griswolds hosting dinner for their neighbors, the Petersons (Keagan-Michael Key, (TV’s “Key & Peele”) and Regina Hall (“Scary Movie”). While the Petersons just got back from vacation in Paris, the Griswolds were headed to the same cabin they go to every year.
When Dusty sees the disappointment and envy of his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”), he decides to mix up their stale plans and take the family to Walley World, reliving his memorable childhood vacation.
Along the way, Dusty hopes to rekindle his own relationship with his wife as well as heal the gap between their two sons, James (Skyler Gisondo, “The Amazing Spider-Man”) and Kevin (Steele Stibbins). Although the awkwardly lovable James is much older, he’s brutally bullied by his vulgar younger brother.
The Griswolds, huddled into a ridiculously equipped Albanian rental car, make a few stops on the way to California, all of which end up hilariously unfortunate. Their first stop is Memphis, where the otherwise tame Debbie went to college. She decides to make a stop at her old sorority house, only to find that they’re continuing her wild traditions as “Do-Anything Debbie.” When she tries to keep up, she fails hard.
Over the car’s CB radio (yes, it has one), the Griswolds get into a spat with a pedophiliac truck driver (Norman Reedus, TV’s “The Walking Dead”), who seems to follow them all the way across the coast
Further down the road, the Griswolds try to go to hot springs only to find themselves in a toxic waste dump filled with sewage and syringes. Upon returning to their car, they find it vandalized and their belongings stolen.
The poo-stained Griswolds make their way to Texas to visit (and seek help from) Dusty’s sister Audrey (Leslie Mann, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) and her rough-edged cowboy husband Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth, “Thor”). They have a great visit with the seemingly-in-love couple, only to end with Dusty driving his ATV right through a cow — a surprisingly gory scene.
As their road trip continues, the Griswolds find themselves stranded in the desert as a result of their impractical foreign car until an unlikely character comes to the rescue.
Fast forward a little while, and you’re placed at the bed-and-breakfast owned by the senior Griswolds, Clark (Chevy Case, 1983 “Vacation”) and Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo, 1983 “Vacation”). In a heart-to-heart, Clark convinces his son Dusty to finish his trip and take the family all the way to Walley World.
The moral of the story: no family is perfect, and as long as you keep trying, you’ll eventually get what’s coming to you — as long as you survive a set of cringe-worthy failures.
Personally, it pains me to see a set of characters try so hard only to fail time and time again. Although the audience will certainly pity the freakishly optimistic Dusty, the situations the family gets into are funny enough to distract from the unfortunate luck of the Griswolds.
Although the film is a reboot, you certainly don’t have to have seen the original to enjoy this movie, however, seeing the 1983 movie first might help the viewer to understand some of the jokes.
TV’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” fans will enjoy cameos from Charlie Day, who plays the overzealous raft guide Chad, and Kaitlin Olson, who plays an Arizona cop. Other familiar faces might include Nick Kroll (TV’s “The Kroll Show”), model Hannah Davis, Ron Livingston (“Office Space) and Michael Peña (“Ant-Man”).
Amid critical reviews, one might conclude that “Vacation” was a swing and a miss, but its simple humor resembles the slapstick, in-your-face comedy that made comedies of the 1980s so endearing.
Yes, there are poop jokes. There are inappropriate jokes, such as pubic hair jokes and even cannibalism jokes. If you’re looking for a telling narrative of comedic glory in today’s society, then this movie probably isn’t for you. However, if you’re along for the ride, you’ll enjoy the vacation.
“Vacation” is rated R for crude and sexual content and language throughout, and brief graphic nudity.