‘Vacation’ Review: Griswold Dysfunction for a New Generation
The easiest way to sum up how Vacation will make you feel is to look at all of the above facial expressions…you’ll get the whole spectrum.
The story is one that most know. A dysfunctional family goes on a road-trip in hopes of bonding and hits every snag imaginable along the way. There’s a bumbling father, a worn out mother and two rambunctious kids to keep in line, and like the original National Lampoon’s Vacation, the trip was complete with skeevy motels, animal murder, awkward family visits and questionable choices made all around.
Ed Helms (Rusty Griswold) and Christina Applegate (Debbie Griswold), while individually funny, lacked chemistry with one another, which is kind of necessary in a film whose plot revolves around a family. Even though Clark was pretty much an idiot in the original, you still felt like Ellen loved him nonetheless. Debbie seemed like she’d checked out of that marriage a while ago and, while Rusty may have been surprised to find his wife reading marriage-help books, I don’t the the audience was.
Ed Helms’ performance as Rusty (who essentially grew up to be young Clark) had the same hopeful-but-hopeless notes as Chevy Chase did in the original. He played the inept father role well, but was almost a little too clueless. How in the world had he managed to secure a job as an airline pilot, while being so common sense deprived? How had he even managed to get up and dress himself in the mornings?!
The always entertaining Christina Applegate had her moment in the sun during a barf-tastic scene that will take you back to the projectile vomiting days of Problem Child 2. While the scene was gross-out funny, her comedic talents that we’ve seen in other projects like Anchorman were underused. It was all about the boys in this film, while Applegate mostly sat back and played the role of the head-shaking mother.
Now let’s talk about the new age Griswold kids. The sons (no daughter this time) were polar opposites, Kevin (Steele Stebbins) being the young potty-mouthed hellion and James, the older, more sensitive, artistic son (Skyler Gisondo). While seeing a kid curse is always funny, having every sentence that came out of Kevin’s mouth be laced with curse world had me head-screaming “We get it! He’s the young rebel! Jesus!” before the family even managed to hit the road, and I’m no prude! Some of Skyler’s funniest moments don’t come from things he says like Steele’s, but come down to a look or expression. His expressive face is fun to watch throughout.
The cameos were great and probably the best thing about the film. Leslie Mann and Chris Hemsworth as Rusty’s sister Audrey and her husband, the uber-manly Stone Crandall were inappropriate and hilarious (not to mention anytime we get to see Chris Hemsworth in next-to-nothing is a win for us all). One thing that caught us off-guard, however, was the random baby that was shoehorned into the end of the scene. It was clearly Audrey and Stone’s child, but there was no mention of the baby, pictures of the baby, any indication that there was a baby in that house, in any previous scenes with the family.
Although Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo’s cameos were fun, I found myself wishing they were a little more included in the movie. The random stop at the senior Griswold’s B&B was a nice look at where the couple ended up. It was also great to see that age hadn’t changed their personalities too much. The callback was nice, but I definitely would have preferred to see the whole family together and trying to function as one big, messed up unit, Christmas Vacation style.
Charlie Day and Norman Reedus had some memorable moments as a suicidal rafting guide and a pedo truck driver, respectively. Most would agree that it’s pretty hard to see humor in either of those personality traits, but Vacation certainly went for it.
The film honestly turned out a lot better than I thought it would, but there were still plenty of moments that fell flat. You’ll definitely get a few good laughs in with the film, but don’t go expecting
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.