Everyone is dead eyed towards remakes and needless sequels a few years after the boat has sailed on a hot cinematic franchise but, while this statement may warrant a schlaking in the punishment cube, re-quels are totally fine. Whilst not exactly a reboot of a former beloved film, there is a much better creatively track record to a ‘do over’ in the form of a comedy, compared to a straight remake. When you consider the newly released Vacation picks up on a character of the original Chevy Chase-led comedy classic all grown up off on his own family holiday, the sense is there to see of the distancing itself from a dreaded remake. Whilst dialling it up a notch or two on the crudeness scale, Vacation still retains the heart of a family trying to bond over an epically disastrous road trip across America.
Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms, They Came Together) is all grown up now and has a family of his own. Despite being content with his local budget airline job, he sees that his relationship with his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate, The Book Of Life), and his two warring sons, arty James (Skyler Gisondo, Night at the Museum: Secret Of The Tomb) & young bully Kevin (debuting Steele Stebbins), is a bit strained with their unadventurous trips away. Aiming to change that, Rusty tries to recapture the magic from his childhood as he packs the family into a rental car for a roadtrip from the Chicago suburbs to Wallyworld on the USA West Coast. Along the way, as well as meeting family members and quaint locals, the Griswolds have to contend with stalking truck drivers, rural natural springs and a dingy ride down some rapids in the Grand Canyon.
What is left in surprisingly for a more adult aimed take on the original Vacation in the modern day vibe of cinema is the heart of the family. Rusty realises the monotony of his families’ lives and resolves to change it for the better at his own personal pick’s expense as he feels it will bring them closer together. Debbie cares for her husband and children but is starting to seek help from relationship books to figure out if her marriage is failing, although Rusty is at least trying to spark some spice and danger into their love life. Kevin as the pottymouth youngster is a perfect caricature of the ‘Don’t care’ section of Generation Y as he’s totally oblivious to his family life, whilst James’ eccentricities are tolerated as a phase. As well as our fab four doing a great comedy group performance, they really do convey the plight of the new Griswold family’s social dynamics and we hope they do love each other deep down and want to pull together & have a better family life. It’s hard to pull off well but Vacation does a good job of pulling you into the lives & idiosyncrasies of each family member and wanting them to come together as a stronger unit.
Away from the family side of the dynamic, the humour is well placed with razor sharp dialogue although it’s each to their own over how much you can stomach of Vacation‘s lewd vomit and poo smearing jokes. I had to look away from the screen, in the unintended way, when the Griswolds were rubbing what is supposedly human waste over one another. Very knacker-ish still in a post-2girls1cup era. Almost made me want to tap out of the movie truth be told… but that was one moment in a 100 minute odd piece of comedy cinema, where for the vast majority it made me laugh. ‘Debbie Do Anything’ is riotous with some great one liners (“I heard if I bopped you on the head, coins will drop out of your mouth!”) and is a good excuse to see Applegate show off her physical comedy skills. Chris Hemsworth (Avengers: Age Of Ultron) steals the film pretty much as a Southern States weatherman who feeds his herd of cows meat from his dinner plate and walks around in front of his gazing sister-in-law with just his boxers on and his impossibly sized appendage threatening to poke out. Whilst the most poignant cameo has been spoiled in the promotional materials, it’s impossible to deny how the elder Chase still has moments of fleeting brilliance as a comic actor. All of these could mask the heart of the original to some viewers, but the humour needs updating for a 2015 audience; as a purely heartfelt comedy dialled down to appeal to a more family audience would have been ignored. Oh and there is one of the best (and thankfully most kept secret – take a clue Marvel!) cameos in a long while when you find out who is that truck driver chasing the Griswolds around.
There are a few nods to the original National Lampoon’s Vacation but most of them flew over my head as it has been awhile, and you’ll barely notice them from the raunchiness of the script and jokes. With Kevin gets his eventual comeuppance from James, I totally expected it to be a fake out from Kev to help his brother with girls more as it was pretty clear Vacation was heading that way, but no it’s just another chapter of a sibling rivalry. I’m not exactly against Rusty’s motivations for keeping his career as a pilot rather low-key but the way he berates Debbie near the end of the film is rather belittling. Thinking about it, I’m struggling to come up with a way how Debbie is a proper independent woman character, in a film littered with gender backtracking moments. Sure the opener with Rusty repeatedly falling into a lady’s parts during turbulence on his plane was kinda funny in a retro throwback way but that actress’ character name may as well have been called Tits McGee and have done with it.
Vacation has been slated by reviewers on other websites; maybe they’re not too thrilled with the grossing-out and more adult take on a beloved situation comedy franchise, but you have to do something like that to compete in funny films in 2015; many have ignored the fact this re-quel to the Chevy Chase’s original maintains that same heart which made the original succeed – a family man struggling but eventually overcoming the various members’ distance. It’s the closest we’ve come to a film that can emulate the goofy slapstick humour with some real emotion-pushing beats that were all the rage in the ’80s and ’90s; something post-2000 cinema has so far failed to replicate. Whilst not a comedic two weeks in the Bahamas classic by any stretch of the imagination, Vacation is as worthy of your time as a mini weekend break to Rome.
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