Synopsis: The next generation of Griswolds is at it again-and on the road for another ill-fated adventure. Following in his father’s footsteps and hoping for some much-needed family bonding, a grown-up Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) surprises his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), and their two sons with a cross-country trip back to America’s “favorite family fun park,” Walley World.
Release Date: July 29, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Few could be blamed for not realizing Vacation is a direct sequel to the 1983 classic National Lampoon’s Vacation, and some would argue that’s by design. It’s as if the film wants to play both sides: appeal to those fans of the Chevy Chase road trip flick, while assuring newcomers that they didn’t miss anything in the interim. However, in choosing not to play up the Vacation connections, until the inevitable Chevy Chase cameo, of course, this sequel/reboot never quite finds an identity.
Vacation is a very crass, R-rated comedy populated by unlikeable characters with confusing arcs. You’d think that the film might try to recreate the archetypes of the original, except by supplanting Chase’s Clark Griswold for his son, Rusty (We’re The Millers‘ Ed Helms), but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Rather, Rusty is his own form of oaf, a good-natured pilot who thinks that a cross-country road trip to Wally World (wink, wink) will bring his family closer together. His wife Debbie (Hall Pass‘s Christina Applegate) has found herself in a matrimonial rut, but rather than voice her disappointment she buries those feelings ten feet deep. And then there are Rusty’s two sons, one a sensitive musician and the other a foul-mouthed bully, who someone thought were funny stereotypes, but are actually the least likeable characters in the whole film.
In fact, it’s the cameos, most notably from Chris Hemsworth and Charlie Day, that make Vacation a tolerable adventure, if only for some slight detours. Hemsworth plays way against type as the self-absorbed husband to Audrey (Leslie Mann), Rusty’s sister and Clark’s daughter, while Charlie Day is this wonderfully absurd tour guide, whose recent bad news forces him to develop a “new outlook on life.” The scenes in which we are spending time with characters like Hemsworth and Day’s, Vacation brushes up against something familiar and entertaining. We see glimpses of extended family and middle America that, while obviously over exaggerated, still make for great comedic fodder. It’s in those moments that Vacation most calls to mind its 1983 predecessor.
But then we revert back to the Griswolds, or rather the Griswolds 2.0, and a mostly tolerable series of hijinks that are occasionally funny and sometimes unnecessarily vulgar. Strangest of all, though, is the randomness to the comedic beats, which can be predicated on everything from a foreign car’s perks to the youngest son’s obsession with obscenities. At times these moments can be funny, but when they aren’t it’s made worse by the inconsistent tone. The original Vacation was slightly crude but with a slice of wholesome truth. This new film strips away all that heart and delivers something that’s just crass.
Vacation offers enough R-rated laughs to leave less discerning comedy fans satisfied. However, those looking for something akin to the original Vacation will come away sorely disappointed, as this sequel struggles to carry on the legacy of its namesake. Its characters are hardly likeable and its story is more like a series of loosely connected comedic vignettes; the only real thing Vacation has going for it is some absurd humor.
Although the original Vacation was also rated R, it didn’t feature anything too crass or uncouth. The 2015 Vacation, on the other hand, takes full advantage of the rating both in its use of crude language and adult humor. Whether it’s bodily fluids, a little violence, or a ton of foul language, Vacation doubles down on the “mature” comedy quotient to the point it feels like the film is trying too hard to be edgy. Sure, there are plenty of laughs to be had, but many of the jokes are like blind stabs in the dark. Eventually something in Vacation is going to hit its mark, but when it doesn’t the momentum tapers off substantially. In fact, it’s a little embarrassing when the jokes don’t land because of how aggressive the R-rated comedy is. If you enjoy comedy that leans heavily into its rating, then Vacation should generate enough laughs to make it worth the ticket price. However, if you’re easily offended by potty or juvenile humor, then it’s best to avoid this one.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): John Francis Daley
- Screenwriter(s): Jonathan M. GoldsteinJohn Francis Daly
- Cast: Ed Helms (Rusty Griswold)Christina Applegate (Debbie Griswold)Skyler Gisondo (James Griswold) Steele Stebbins (Kevin Griswold)Chris Hemsworth (Stone Crandall)Leslie Mann (Audrey Crandall)Chevy Chase (Clark Griswold)Beverly D’Angelo (Ellen Griswold)Charlie Day (Chad)
- Editor(s): Jamie Gross
- Cinematographer: Barry Peterson
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Mark Mothersbaugh
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA