Take a Drink: for each awkward moment
Do a Shot: for each celebrity cameo
Take a Drink: whenever a character acts out of character
Do a Shot: for each gross-out moment
Take a Drink: for each new destination
Take a Drink: each time “Kiss from a Rose” plays
Now that I can get behind
Take a Drink: for each bizarre moment
By: Matt Conway (Four Beers) –
Reboots, remakes, sequels, oh my! As filmgoers that seems to be a majority of the content that Hollywood is serving up at our local multiplexes as of late. Some of these films are actually inspired takes on their originals, bringing a fresh new spin to a beloved classic. That, for the most part, however, is typically not the case, with most of these films being incredibly uninspired and bland.
One of the few remakes that I was actually looking forward to was Vacation. National Lampoon’s Vacation is a true staple of the 80’s, a hilarious oft-kilter comedy that was not afraid to have some surprisingly daring satire. With so many studio comedies being just so bland, that kind of oft-kilter energy could have been a much welcomed change of pace. However, Vacation is a a largely forgettable comedy.
After years of bland visits to a lakehouse, Rusty Griswold decides to change it up, taking his family on a road trip to Wally World to get closer with his family.
The cast here certainly gives it their all. Ed Helms is one of my personal favorite comedic actors, as he tends to bring a great deal of earnestness to the screen, even in lackluster flicks. He also brings a great deal of energy, and he makes the most of the material he has to work with. Co-starring alongside him is Christina Applegate, who, similar to Helms, is very underrated. The two of them have an easy-going chemistry on screen, with Applegate making the most out of her limited role.
Vacation also features a deep supporting cast mixed with celebrities and other comedic actors. The most notable is Chris Hemsworth, who is certainly play against type as a local Southern weatherman. It’s a one joke character, but Hemsworth’s conviction helps in making it work. Other comedic actors such as Charlie Day, Nick Kroll, Chevy Chase, and so many more do the most they can with their limited roles.
Vacation is certainly not without its fair share of laughs. Writers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are mostly known for writing lackluster comedies, from the Horrible Bosses films to The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, but here show some signs of improvement. The film is essentially a series of vignettes, with a few of them being surprisingly clever. This certainly is not a laughless affair like their past films.
Vacation is also breezy enough to never really be painful. At 99 minutes, the movie moves well from scene to scene, with the film being consistently paced. I was never bored while watching, which is not a major positive, but makes even the negative aspects a bit more bearable.
The story here is very thinly constructed. It’s clearly trying to be an homage to the original, but instead just feels very trite. Vacation storywise hits the same beats you expect in a road trip comedy like this, which is a shame considering how daring the original film was.
Like most other studio comedies, Vacation has sentimentality that feels incredibly forced. One of the aspects of the original that is so great is that the film understands how unlikable and wrong Rusty’s delusional dream of the perfect vacation is. Here, however, the characters at several points do incredibly despicable acts and in the end we are supposed to feel sympathetic towards them. This is especially the case with Rusty’s youngest son, who is so wicked that it’s impossible to really care for him.
One of the big turn offs about Vacation is its incredible mean-streak. The original Vacation similarly rode the line, but it worked because the film was simultaneously judging its characters and their ridiculous actions. Here, Rusty and his crew are supposed to be likable, so when they do some of the mean-spirited acts they do, it feels extremely off-putting. Too often the film settles for cheap gags that are in poor taste.
The script here also does a rather poor job of constructing these characters. From scene to scene, they would change in whatever way would fit the comedic moment, which is so odd to endure. For example, at one moment Rusty can be an extremely smart and competent father, and the next he is clueless and unaware of everything. When the characters flip like a light switch, it makes the whole affair feel lazily constructed.
Vacation has a few laughs, but misses way more than it hits. For basketball fans, it’s like the J.R. Smith of comedies; it will hit a few shots, but not enough to justify how many shots are taken. The film often times feels like it’s trying too hard to get laughs, with several gross-out gags trying to shock audiences into laughing. Instead, they fall incredibly flat and just feel in poor taste.
Vacation was ultimately doomed from the jump street. Instead of making a film that evoked the laughs and satire that the original provided, this feels like a generic studio comedy made using the National Lampoon brand. It’s the epitome of why so many remakes are bad, as studios care far too much about just slapping something together with a brand, rather than trying to re-capture what the original did so well.
Vacation is not the tortuous experience many are painting it as, but it’s an extremely lackluster ride. Despite an earnest effort by the cast, the film entirely misses what made the original so great, instead delivering an extremely trite studio comedy that doesn’t boast enough laughs to make up for that. Better luck next time!