Vacation really wants you to know it is a Vacation movie, even though there is a whole scene explaining how it isn’t going to just be another Vacation movie. Lindsey Buckingham’s Holiday Road plays a million times in this thing to remind you of the film’s roots, I could have done with the one time over the title. All and all it follows a pretty similar blueprint to the original film, which is to be expected, but for every time it tries to do something new it goes right back to the rehash well.
That isn’t to say I didn’t find some laughs in the film. Ed Helms’ shtick as Rusty got me going a couple of times and Christina Applegate’s visit to her old sorority was the highlight for Mrs. Griswold, but Chris Hemsworth stole the show as a conservative Christian weatherman with a cock of gold. The accent was a bit wonky, but Hemsworth is fully committed to the absurdity of the character. I do wish they gave Leslie Mann more to do as Aubrey though.
The two Griswold boys along for the ride are actually get some of the best written stuff in the film, with the younger one, Kevin, batting the highest average on the joke to laughs ratio. Steele Stebbins unleashes some horrible things out of Kevin’s mouth, I can’t believe his parents signed off in this (I actually can believe it). The older brother James is the sweetest one in the bunch, and while he might be a punching bag most of the time, he at least is a decent human being that we can somewhat care about. Actually, that is one thing the film actually does a pretty good job of. None of the characters are monsters really, they are relatable enough and the film doesn’t resort to nasty outbursts to build some tension for the sake of tension. The is a bit of a heart at the center of all of this, which I think sort of hurts the film’s attempt at half-assed gross out humor. It can’t really commit to one idea or the other.
I found myself chuckling throughout the picture, but for some reason I left rather unimpressed. Nothing really surprised me in the proceedings, some jokes are telegraphed from miles away, and the rehashed feeling of it all didn’t help matters either. There is also no flash to filmmaking or any new or clever devices implemented for humor. Everything just felt stale, and anything that did seem kind of clever goes away as quickly as it appears. The cops at the Four Corners, Norman Reedus, Charlie Day; all of these moments feel all too brief and like there might have been a few more laughs to be earned out of each of them. At least they got maximum laughs out of Chris Hemsworth’s giant penis in the film.
Vacation isn’t going to blow anyone away, but if you catch it on cable or are a fan of the series I imagine you will get something out of this. Still, don’t rush out to theater for it either, Vacation is certainly nothing special.