Review: Vacation (2015)

Vacation is a sequel/reboot of the Vacation series from the 80’s & 90’s that followed the misadventures of the Griswold family. You know, the same franchise that helped turn Chevy Chase into a symbol of the 80’s and made Lyndsay Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” an iconic song.

In Vacation, a grown up Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) wants to inject some fun into his family, so he surprises them with a cross-country road trip to Wally World. Rusty, his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate), and their sons James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) pile into their Tartan Prancer aka “The Honda of Albania” and hit the road for some much needed family bonding.

In true Griswold fashion, the trip goes from family vacation to family disaster quicker than you can say Marty Moose.  A determined Rusty pushes his family through one mishap after another and will let nothing get in the way of them making it to Wally World.

I’ll be the first to admit Vacation is not a good movie. It’s not. It barely qualifies as a movie; it’s more like a chain of unfortunate events with some reoccurring jokes and cameos sprinkled on top. Yet, Vacation still manages to entertain.

The movie does its best to trade off the original Vacation with renditions of Holiday Road, a reenactment of the famous Chevy Chase/Christie Brinkley scene, and a cameo from a familiar vehicle. Unfortunately most of those gags fall flat because they don’t work as well as they did in the original.

Most of the laughs come by way of cameos from Chad (Charlie Day) the white water rafting guide (the second funniest scene in the movie), Rusty’s brother-in-law Stone (Chris Hemsworth), and a surprising cameo from The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus. There’s also a hilarious scene with a rat that will have people in tears.

As a family, The Griswolds have a few funny moments, mostly from Steele Stebbins performance, but they spend most of the film trying to dig their way out of absurd situations. The biggest complaint with the movie and the difference between this and the original is these Griswolds don’t feel like a family. What made the original so funny was the idea you were watching a family stuck with each other and trying operate through their dysfunction.

Most people would agree Ed Helms is funny, yet it’s still unclear if he can carry a comedy on his own. 2011’s Cedar Rapids missed its mark and he’s the 4th funniest person in Vacation. I’m sure he’ll get another shot at a leading role, but his time is running out.

Despite its flaws, Vacation is a fun comedy even though it may not give fans of the franchise the nostalgic fulfillment they were looking for. Parts of the film are mediocre to the least, while other scenes will make you laugh until you have tears in your eyes. Vacation has laugh out loud moments throughout, but having the patience to get there may be what stops audiences from truly enjoying it.

Grade: B-