It’s a terrible thing, getting shanghaied into a Vacation that leaves plenty to be desired.
I never worshipped at the altar of Chevy Chase (my albeit limited appreciation of the funny guy stems from his cantankerous role on TV’s Community), and I never saw the original 1983 National Lampoon movie, but that don’t mean I cannot recognize that this summer’s Ed Helms-led reboot is patently bad.
Had I been a die-hard fan of the material, I am pretty darn sure that the mortification that I felt sitting in the movie theater earlier today would have given way to outrage. Like, seeing-red kind of stuff.
This Vacation, we were promised in the teasestastic trailer that preceded it, would absolutely “stand on its own,” per Helms’ character, a now-grown Rusty Griswold, whose dad, played by Chase back in the day, dragged his oh-so-precious family on a cross-crountry road trip to Walley World. Thirty years later, nice, well-meaning Rusty has gotten it into his head that recreating that trip is the way to go, the thing to do to bring his family closer together. Y’ see, Rusty’s a good guy, but he’s also kinda boring, and he’s arrived at that conclusion in earnest after overhearing his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate, who deserves better) complain about how every summer it’s the same ol’, same let’s go to our cabin in Michigan....
So off the new-gen Griswolds – including sensitive-boy James (Skyler Gisondo) and bully-on-wheels younger son, Kevin, who simply loves taunting his older brother and who, as portrayed by Steele Stebbins, makes for the movie’s funniest bits – go, in unenthused search of a holiday to remember.
A real shame, then, that the spirit in which the Griswolds take to the road – in a ridiculous rental car that quickly wears out its usefulness as a gag – permeates this proposition som’in’ fierce. Lemme just say that our protagonists aren’t the only ones being put through the ringer on this one, and that when they merrily bathe in what they first think is a hot mud spring, then realize is a pool of raw sewage, you, too, will feel like you are covered in s---.
Not even Leslie Mann popping up to play a grown-up Audrey, or, :/, Chris Hemsworth, as her life-is-a-faucet metaphor-wielding cattle rancher/up-and-coming weatherman with lion-y feathered hair and a mighty longhorn of his own Texan hubs, can enliven this stinker – and those two are quite the charismatic actors! Even they are written to overstay their welcome (he’s overwritten as an alpha male who fails to realize he is crushing his wife’s hopes and dreams of self-fulfillment, and she is underserved as a girl who has blossomed into a meek wife (does that trajectory befit the character?). That’s to say nothing of Chase and the OG Griswold mama, Beverly D’Angelo, who are tacked on toward the end of the journey, just for nostalgia’s sake.
If you will allow me a second and final pun, if somebody invites you on this Vacation, ahem...uh...yeah, like this movie, I got nothing to offer.
My Rating *
Photo: Warner Bros.