Writer John Hughes kicked off National Lampoon’s Vacation series with Chevy Chase playing the bumbling Clark Griswold and Beverly D’Angelo his ever-patient wife Ellen in 1983. Then they turned out European Vacation two years later and Christmas Vacation in 1989. Now, those hideous adventures at America’s favourite family fun park, Walley World, come back to haunt us with the next generation of Griswolds, who follow in their father’s footsteps.
This time it is Clark and Ellen’s grown son, Rusty, played by Ed Helms (from The Hangover films) – a dorky pilot for a low-cost airline – who takes his two children on a road trip. The idea is for some much-needed family bonding. Next to Rusty is his wife, Debbie, a role filled by Christina Applegate (from the Anchorman movies), who, it turns out, was quite the party animal in her day. With them on their 4,000 kilometre cross country journey are their two sons – played by Skyler Gisondo (Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb) and Steele Stebbins (A Haunted House 2). In this case, the younger son is a foul-mouthed bully to his sensitive, intellectual older brother. Rounding out the key cast are Chris Hemsworth (the Thor films) as Stone Crandall, Rusty’s irritatingly successful, six-pack imbued brother-in-law and Leslie Mann (The Other Woman) as Stone’s partner and Rusty’s sister. And what would a Vacation film be without Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo putting in an appearance, which they do.
The Griswolds’ misadventures come thick and fast, starting with a minivan unlike any you have seen before. They play a game of chicken with a trucker, take a dip in the hot springs that turns out to contain raw sewage, cheat death in the wild rapids and so much more.
The film marks the directorial debuts of Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley. The pair, who wrote Horrible Bosses and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 was also responsible for this script, based on characters created by John Hughes.
I must admit I was simply dreading the thought of seeing the film because I was fully prepared for the worst. Happily, I didn’t get it. Cheap jokes, corny jokes, clichés and bad language aside, there were many laugh aloud moments. Sure some of the gags, plenty of which were visual, fell flat, but others didn’t and there were noticeable and regular guffaws in the audience. The whole idea of comedy circa 2000s is to be politically incorrect and Vacation does, indeed, push the envelope more than ever before. I had seen the shorts a few times ahead of viewing the movie and that had put me off. Fortunately, this was one occasion when the trailer didn’t give away the plot nor spoil the film and where they didn’t use the best bits in the trailer.
I thought the choice of family members was perfect for what the movie was trying to achieve. Hey, this was never meant to be highbrow entertainment, just lightweight baloney and it delivers. Many will no doubt denounce what they will regard as cringe worthy – and “yes” there is that, but I was in the mood for a chuckle or two and I certainly got that.
Just one note of caution, I received quite a shock when I caught the sight of Chevy Chase circa 2015.
Rated MA, Vacation scores a 6 out of 10.
Director: John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein
Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann and Chevy Chase
Release Date: 20 August 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television