Vacation

Vacation

2015, R, 98 min. Directed by John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein. Starring Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann, Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Charlie Day, Catherine Missal, Ron Livingston, Norman Reedus, Keegan-Michael Key, Regina Hall.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 31, 2015

One of the unfunniest comedies it’s ever been my misfortune to see, this Vacation reboot of National Lampoon’s much-loved jaunt from 1983 (which was directed by Harold Ramis from a script by John Hughes, two of that era’s film-comedy giants) chucks the Lampoon’s aegis and all shreds of humor that aren’t malevolent, vulgar, and mean-spirited.

Banking on the nostalgia factor, the filmmakers err in making this an R-rated film. Sentimental adults, therefore, will be discouraged from bringing kids to what easily could have been a genial film about a family outing that might appeal to multiple demographic targets. But, no: Co-writers and -directors Daley and Goldstein (previously screenwriting partners on Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, Horrible Bosses 2, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) have instead made something that eradicates any good will that might have accompanied wistful adults into the theatre.

Some examples of how Vacation’s humor curdles? The opening sequence shows the now grownup Rusty Griswold (Helms) at work as a pilot for a discount airline who leaves the plane’s navigation to his senile co-pilot. The next sequence features Rusty coming home to a family squabble during which his younger son (Stebbins) calls his older brother (Gisondo) a vagina – a word that the boys, their mom (a woefully underused Applegate), and dad repeat dozens of times before we’re hardly settled in our seats. The road trip takes place in a Tartan Prancer, “the Honda of Albania,” a shoddy vehicle in which only the most cavalier of parents would allow their families to travel. The blonde in the convertible who distracts Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) in the original? There’s another vixen in this version, but, well, she ends up as roadkill. A detour to mom Debbie’s alma mater reveals her wild side and lots of vomitus. An off-road excursion to a swimming hole winds up covering the hapless Griswolds in human excrement. A pop-in visit with Debbie’s sister (Mann, underutilized) and her hunky husband (Hemsworth, proving himself totally game) has the vain host walking around inappropriately in his underwear advertising his giant package (a joke that’s initially funny before it overextends its welcome). And, oh yeah … a rustling mishap ends with Rusty covered in cow entrails.

The Griswold elders (Chase and Beverly D’Angelo) show up toward the end for brief cameos, but like most everyone else in the film, they barely register. With any luck, Vacation will barely register, as well.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More John Francis Daley Films
Game Night
Monopoly was never this brutal before this crime-com.

Danielle White, Feb. 23, 2018

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Penguins
Chilly nature documentary has a cuddly heart that's perfect for young animal lovers

April 19, 2019

The Chaperone
The fascinating true story of Louise Brooks falls out of focus in this anachronistic fiction

April 12, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Vacation, John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein, Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann, Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Charlie Day, Catherine Missal, Ron Livingston, Norman Reedus, Keegan-Michael Key, Regina Hall

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle