This film is very hard to review. I get the feeling that I would have liked the film enough to at least give it an average score, maybe even a four. But the fact that this is supposed to be a Vacation movie and part of the franchise ultimately makes me hate this film. It is everything I feared: the attempt to make another vacation film but infuse it with modern comedy, a specific type of comedy that just doesn't work for a Vacation film. This honestly would have been a pretty good, average comedy, if it were We're the Millers 2, but it's not! It's supposed to be a Vacation film and does not have the classic charm or the brand of humor the other films did.
Not all the Vacation films were perfect. I can barely stand European Vacation, but the original Vacation and Christmas Vacation are among some of my favorite comedies of all time. We're the Millers 2... I mean, Vacation (2015) feels too incredibly different from the other films. If you liked this new Vacation, you're probably think I'm being closed minded and don't like change. I don't mind change at all, as long as it's done right and has at least some level of consistency with the other films in the series. Vacation (2015) is just everything we come to know about modern comedy, making it hard to differentiate between other comedies in the last couple of years! It has everything that is, nowadays, considered great comedy: excessive cursing just to give it that R-rating without the impact few and strategic cursing could have on a film, lots of cameos that have funnier parts than the lead actors, lots of penis and vagina jokes thrown in at random, awkward comedy made super awkward to the point of creditworthiness, gross out humor, and sometimes things that are so sadistic that I question whether it's really meant to be funny. Now, none of these things are new and strictly in modern comedy, but it seems modern comedy emphasizes these kinds of jokes more than any other kind, especially the R-rated comedies.
I knew I was really in for a bad time (considering this was a Vacation film) when they're already resorting to gross out humor and pop jokes in the opening credits. They throw the adult Rusty in an awkward and unintentional sexual situation during turbulence (only the conversations he had with the co-pilot seemed remotely Vacation-like comedy in this scene). The next scene's musical number is a rap song, I think, where the only words repeated (about five times) being "Mother Fucker". Finally the next scene (the first scene with the entire family) they already resort to penis and vagina jokes in one scene. It was by this time the family in front of me realized this was not the film to take their kids to. They probably were thinking this was going to be more like Christmas Vacation. I probably would have laughed and thought some of this comedy was funny, but in the back of my mind, all I could think about was that this was supposed to be a Vacation film and when Rusty says something like, "The New Vacation will stand on its own." Yeah, the script writers had the audacity to jab at the original vacation as say theirs would be just as good!
Maybe this would have been a little more acceptable if the characters didn't annoy me. Ed Helms and Chirstina Applegate did not annoy me and I thought they were both fine, but their characters were a different story. Rusty did not feel like Rusty at all and felt more like a cheap knock of of Clark rather than a true adult Rusty. And the only complicated character development of the wife in this film is she used to sleep with lots and lots of men in her college days... that's about it. The kids were the worst part of this movie. The older brother was far to awkward to the point that I cringed every time he was the major focus of the scene. I could not stand the younger brother of the film. Maybe a younger brother picking on an older brother could be decent comedy, but the younger brother is so sadistic in this film that I couldn't find it funny. He was practically a young serial killer in this film. One of his "funny" scenes is him putting a plastic bag over his brother in the back of a car while saying, "Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep." It's not funny, not even darkly comedic.
There are aspects of this film I liked, but they just were done poorly. I liked the whole reason they were going on a different kind of vacation is because Rusty brings them to the same place year after year. It was clever showing the photos of past vacations with his family looking sadder and more bored after each year. I liked the subplot of the older brother falling in love with a girl (though it was done poorly, for the most part). I liked the fact that a truck driver is chasing after them throughout the trip (though it's been done before). I liked the angry Korean GPS voice (though it got old and over used). There were tons of little things I liked throughout the film, but most were either done poorly or averagely or they didn't fit a Vacation scene, like the orgy Rusty and his wife stumble upon.
Most of the cameos were unfortunately the best part of the film. Chris Hemsworth was funny. The original parents showing up was a breath of fresh air (but while they acted like you'd expect from their characters, they weren't given dialogue that truly fits their characters). Norman Reedus has a creepy, but funny surprise cameo in this film.
Honestly, the best part of this film and the only reason it has this high of a rating is the scene with Charlie Day. It fit perfectly with his comedic style while also feeling like the scene that would fit the most in a vacation scene. After Charlie Day's character is dumped via a phone call and then they raft down the river, everything in that scene seemed like pure gold, especially in comparison to everything else in the film. I could not stop laughing, from the music, to the suicidal raft guide, to the panicked family slowly realizing the danger they were in without dialogue being heard over the music, to the chartoony raft falling down the waterfall. The whole scene made my day.
I don't think this an abomination to film making. I think if you've never seen any of the other vacation films and you love everything about R-rated modern day comedies, then you will probably love this film. I probably could have given it a three or a four if this wasn't a Vacation movie, but it's supposed to be.