Comedy: Following in the footsteps of his father decades ago, a man takes his wife and their two kids on a road trip across the country to the amusement park from his childhood.
Rusty Griswold (ED HELMS) is an airline pilot who long ago took a vacation road trip with his parents, Clark (CHEVY CHASE) and Ellen (BEVERLY D'ANGELO), and sister, Audrey (LESLIE MANN), across the country to visit the Walley World amusement park. Now, all these years later, he's married to Debbie (CHRISTINA APPLEGATE) and they have two kids, James (SKYLER GISONDO) and his younger brother, Kevin (STEELE STEBBINS), who relentless bullies his older sibling.
When Rusty realizes Debbie isn't happy about once again returning to their annual cabin vacation -- all because he flies for an econo airline, unlike world traveler and airline pilot jetsetter Ethan (RON LIVINGSTON) -- he comes up with the idea to recreate the road trip to Walley World. And that's despite everything that went wrong with that original trip.
Along the way, they plan on visiting with Audrey and her handsome and ultra-wealthy weatherman husband, Stone Crandall (CHRIS HEMSWORTH), all while James keeps seeing and occasionally running into another teen, Adena (CATHERINE MISSAL), who's likewise on a road trip with her family. As they make their way along their 2,500-plus trip, The Griswolds run into all sorts of comedic mishaps.
OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Vacations have long been a staple of family life, not only to get away from the daily routine and see something new, but also to serve as a bonding experience for parents and their kids. Back in the 1950s, that was predominantly done via automobile with many a mom or dad likely espousing the old "it's the journey, not the destination" mantra to their restless kids along the way.
In the decades that followed, many families took more to traveling by plane or cruise ship, which provided either speed or space to spread out in regards to getting to the destination. All of which made 1983's "National Lampoon's Vacation" (written by John Hughes and directed by Harold Ramis) not only seem quaint in terms of the chosen mode of transportation, but also filled with potential on-the-road setbacks and obstacles that could be mined for comedy.
While not a particularly great film, it contained a number of signature moments (such as star Chevy Chase skinny-dipping with Christie Brinkley, the dead grandmother transported atop the station wagon and, of course, the family arriving to their destination only to find it closed).
Considering that Hollywood has already or seemingly is in the process of remaking every film it ever produced, it's no surprise that we now have a so-called reboot of the 32-year-old comedy. To be accurate, this is actually a continuation of the original "Vacation" (and its various sequels -- although I never saw the more recent ones), something pointed out by the now grown up Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms, even if one can't imagine Anthony Michael Hall growing up to look like him).
In one scene, he explains to his wife (Christina Applegate) and boys (Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins) about the original vacation (also meaning "Vacation") that this new one is similar to the old, but with differences (two sons vs. a son and daughter, etc.) and that this new vacation/"Vacation" will stand on its own.
The destination is the same ("Walley World" -- surprisingly we never seem them check online to make sure it will be open), although this time it's not quite made out to be the holy grail of amusement parks. Accordingly, the quest to get there doesn't have the same urgency and pig-headed determination as the last time around.
Thus, the various setbacks and obstacles along the way don't carry the same comedic conflict weight as in the original. To make matters worse, the big and not-so-big comedy moments -- as conceived and then executed by co-writers and co-directors Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley -- definitely fall into the hit or miss variety.
Of course, one's comedy tastes will affect one's view of that, but there's no denying there are more laughs to be had (albeit stemming from mostly crude, sexual or mean humor rather than anything smart, clever or imaginative) in the first half than in the second (our viewing audience's reaction to said material supports that personal observation).
Helms is seemingly channeling Chase (who isn't remotely funny, in a brief cameo, doing his old fumbling and bumbling shtick that wore out its welcome long ago) in his patriarch role, and he and the rest of the cast are game for what the filmmakers throw their way. But most of the individual set pieces are just that -- standalone bits that ultimately don't build up any sort of growing comedic momentum.
I'll admit I laughed a fair number of times at some of those moments. That alone, however, doesn't remotely make this a great or even good comedy, and I can't imagine sitting through it again, even if stuck in a car on a cross-country road trip. "Vacation" rates as a 4 out of 10.