Cinematic Releases: Vacation - Guaranteed Spoiler Free Review

A new set of Griswolds take the holiday road in this new Vacation movie.

"Look!! Dad ruined his career and only
ends up in crappy remakes now."
There's a reason why there are so many sequels and remakes and reboots nowadays.  Okay, a reason besides presumably easy money.  That reason is nostalgia.  Name recognition is meant to inspire good memories of the original, and to take an opportunity to revisit the places and things from the past that we love and make new memories there.  Nostalgia is pretty powerful that way, and it's the driving force, and more or less the plot, of Vacation, the latest in a long line of remakes of beloved films of the past. 

Ed Helms steps into the role of Rusty Griswold (the fifth actor to do so in as many movies), who is without a doubt his father's son: a well-meaning but often misguided family man.  The usual hijinks ensue when he spontaneously decides to take his bored family on a cross country trip like the one he remembered from his childhood; as disastrous as it may have been, it at least brought his family closer together.  If the trip was smooth sailing, there'd be no movie.

The problem with remakes and reboots is that they often have unrealistic expectations put upon them.  Granted, the original Vacation was no Citizen Kane, but it's still a very fondly remembered film.  But it's not the expectations, however high they may be, that hold this movie down.  This Vacation falls mostly flat on its own efforts.  It follows the original film's formula a bit too closely, struggling to maintain its genuine heart while trying to mix in the over-the-top irreverence of modern R-rated comedies like Ted and the underrated (and way superior) We're The Millers and a dash of Jump Street self-awareness.  Vacation has a lot of balls in the air, and no matter how many land the way they're supposed to, it's hard to ignore the ones that drop.

the griswolds
"When someone farts in the car,
we all laugh."
There are actually a lot of solid laughs to be had in Vacation.  Quite a lot of them come from the young actor Steele Stebbins in a breakout performance as Rusty's youngest son Kevin. Stebbins takes what could have been a routine "bratty kid" role and hijacks every scene he appears in, and injects the movie with a lot of much-needed hilarity when other jokes fall flat around him.  Some addition spark comes from the numerous fun cameos that would have been distracting in similar films but are refreshing and much needed here.  (Unfortunately this does not include the obligatory appearance by Clark Griswold himself, Chevy Chase, who just seems awkward and a bit sad here.)  These laughs are almost enough to make up for Vacation's many missed opportunities, but not quite.

No one likely expected Vacation to be a great film, as a remake or even on its own merits, but the film suffers greatly from missed opportunities and an uneven success rate.  The laugh-out-loud moments just aren't enough to make it stand up to even the best recent comedies, much less the series of films that preceded it.  The bad just slightly outweighs the good of Vacation, making for a rather uneven "holiday road".


 -Mike Stec

Like this review? Please share.
StumbleUpon Reddit Pinterest Facebook Twitter Addthis