Friday, July 31, 2015

Vacation (2015)

** out of ****

In Vacation, we essentially get a remake of National Lampoon’s Vacation -the raunchy road-trip comedy from 1983. The film is technically a sequel, now starring the grown-up Rusty Griswold (now played by Ed Helms), a character who changed age, appearance, and personality enough throughout the original run of Vacation movies that it isn’t really a stretch for him to now be a father character with the same oblivious and delusional optimism that his father (Chevy Chase) possessed.

It’s a remake masquerading as a sequel, because Rusty is desperate to take charge of his family’s growing disconnection by forcing them to experience a road trip, like the one he had as a kid. So once again, the Griswold’s are off to Walley World with a mess of trouble to encounter along the way.

I found it to be as mixed an experience as the original film, which may have had an impact during the new run of low-brow studio comedies of the time but isn't an example of a solid comedy in my book (the tamer Christmas Vacation is significantly funnier). Some of the weaker aspects of the new movie’s humor are stretched thin, while a lot of other gags land beautifully. Writers/directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein (the scribes behind Horrible Bosses) essentially do a good job in the invention putting a spin on concepts borrowed from the original and maintaining an irreverent tone -an important trait that a lot of character-arc obsessed comedy movie writers don't seem to understand.

Unfortunately, Ed Helms turns in a one-note performance with his lead character, often showing a big fifties-dad smile that no kid today should view as familiar. Christina Applegate, as his wife, often outshines him with an understated performance amazingly equal with Beverly D'Angelo's borderline tolerant attitude seen in the earlier movies. The feuding children are this time brothers, where the younger of the two is the bully - which felt original. 

The talented list of cameos throughout the film also provide an element of satisfaction -particularly during a visit to the Four Corners Monument, which results in a jurisdictional stand-off among four officers of separate states -all played by good comic actors.

Vacation may be an unwanted cash-grab with a weak imitation structure, but it inspired just enough laughs for me to give it some kind of very mild recommendation. 

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