Entertainment & Humor MIDDLE AGE MUSINGS  >  Movie Review of the Week: “Vacation”

Movie Review of the Week: “Vacation”

Movie Review of the Week: “Vacation”
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

BY ALISON BAILES

Positioned as a sequel, but playing more like a smuttier remake, “Vacation” succeeds on nostalgia and chutzpah points alone. It also has a fine Chevy Chase stand-in in the shape of Ed Helms (“The Office”) who channels Chase’s clueless, well-intentioned paterfamilias Clark Griswold.

Helms isn’t playing Clark however, he’s playing his grown-up son Rusty who was portrayed as a teenage boy by Anthony Michael Hall in the 1983 original. So in that sense it is a true sequel, but so many of the scenes are carbon copies of the first Harold Ramis/John Hughes comedy that sometimes it feels as if the writer/directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein weren’t trying too hard to come up with anything new. Perhaps that doesn’t matter too much, as just the premise of this family road trip in the hands of a fine comedic cast is smirk-inducing.

It’s de rigueur these days to wink at one’s audience of course, and early on in “Vacation” Rusty, a married father of two, announces to his family that he wants to relive the vacation he took as a child to Walley World. “I’ve never heard of the old vacation”, says his son. “The new vacation will stand on its own”, replies Rusty, thereby encapsulating the hopes and dreams of the studio heads who greenlit this project.

Rusty’s wife Debbie is played by the always reliable Christina Applegate who endures Rusty’s dorky ways and embarrassing lectures. She lovingly goes along with Rusty’s ideas, but longs for romance and exotic travels. She gets a frisson of excitement when they visit Rusty’s sister Audrey (Leslie Mann) who is married to the handsome hunk of a weatherman Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth). Stone, a Texan cowboy who speaks in faucet metaphors, is particularly well endowed and proud of it.

Does “Vacation” go too far? Of course it does. But sometimes it is very, very funny, as when Rusty pontificates on the subject of pedophiles, or the Griswolds go white water rafting with a just-jilted river guide. Sometimes it is groan-inducing as when the family takes an unsuspecting dip in a pool of sewage or when Rusty explains (inaccurately) what a rim job is to his eldest son. Subtlety is not its strong suit.

But thanks to the remarkable performance of Ed Helms, who excels at playing the ramrod straight man to the hilarity around him, “Vacation” rises above the usual crude R rated mediocrity. An especially funny gag involves the family’s cut-rate car, made in Albania with a Korean language GPS that yells incomprehensible directions at inopportune times. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo show up towards the end reprising their roles as Griswold parents and I loved the recurrent “Kiss from A Rose” joke courtesy that ‘90’s icon Seal.

“This trip’s been a nightmare!” says Rusty at the culmination of their cross-country adventure. “That’s what family vacations are!” ripostes his dad. Exactly. Embarrassing parents are excruciating when they’re your own, but hilarious when they aren’t. Which makes “Vacation” a fun, even cathartic way to spend 90 minutes this summer. Because however goofy your dad is, guaranteed he’s not as bad as Rusty Griswold.

“This trip’s been a nightmare!” says Rusty at the culmination of their cross-country adventure. “That’s what family vacations are!” ripostes his dad. Exactly. Embarrassing parents are excruciating when they’re your own, but hilarious when they aren’t. Which makes “Vacation” a fun, even cathartic way to spend 90 minutes this summer. Because however goofy your dad is, guaranteed he’s not as bad as Rusty Griswold.

 

 

 

 

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...