Vacation received mildly negative reviews coming out of the gate, and whilst the trailer had some big laughs and looked rather promising, I couldn’t help but feel that all the laughs in the trailer would be only what was in the film. Thankfully, that isn’t completely the case but Vacation still suffers from large chunks of narrative where nothing entertaining happens nor does story progression appear to boost the story beyond mediocre.
Rusty and his family are stuck in a rut, so to re-spark his marriage and encourage his two sons to bond, he decides to hire a car and take a 2000 mile trip to Walleyworld, an epic theme park. Though the journey doesn’t go exactly plan, crazy encounters and awkward situations run amok, causing Rusty to question his sanity and the worth of the journey. This reboot stays moderately faithful to the original films, keeping to the slapstick and silliness that graced the older entries. Chevy Chase and Beverly De Angelo make a short but welcome return that will please fans of the franchise but viewers be warned, this film sticks with Rusty and co, and meeting Chase and De Angelo is merely a pit stop.
Ed Helms is charming, likeable and a solid lead to follow, he isn’t trying to live up to Chevy Chase’ legacy, he’s taking on a new role and making it his own, he nails the slapstick, plays it over the top and silly when needed and channels some of the madness he did so well in The Hangover trilogy. However, Christina Applegate really steals the scene as his wife. Surprisingly dirty, raunchy and up for just about anything, she dives into the role and has one of the best sequences in which she challenges a group of Sorority girls for a beer contest, failing miserably and pulling off what is without a doubt one of the funniest hangover expressions ever. Skyler Gisondo is loveably geeky and hopeless as the older brother James, he sells the awkwardness and embarrassment very well. However, it’s the younger brother played by Steele Stebbins who knocks it out the park. Undoubtedly boasting the best lines in the film, Stebbins superbly takes the piss and bullies his older brother and the fact we get to see a young kid swearing and saying offensive comments for an entire film is hysterical and refreshing.
There’s funny support from Chris Hemsworth and Charlie Day, though sadly Leslie Mann is wasted. A lot of the jokes fall flat, watching Ed Helms have his arm crushed between car doors isn’t funny even after three times, but watching him blow up his car into flames is very amusing. Driving head first into cows isn’t funny, I feel if the director was different, say Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) or Adam McKay (The Other Guys) all the failed jokes here would work as they have the punch and inventiveness to make visual gags and crude jokes work better.
I don’t quite know if I’d watch Vacation again, there are some excellent moments, did I forget to mention the hilariously gross and uncomfortable raw sewage scene or the “Vin Diesel handbrake turn" stunt? It’s just a shame that a lot of comedy fails, and I feel the director didn’t do a great job of injecting any recognisable style or flair, but the cast do a marvellous job.