Wednesday, July 29, 2015
“Vacation” – Not your grandfather’s Vacation.
(Note: The new Vacation is notably missing the National Lampoon moniker, so I will refer to the original as NLV for the rest of review, partly because the stodgers hate anything that looks like texting speech.)
The first argument that everyone has already had about Vacation is whether it’s a sequel or a remake. The answer is that it’s both – it’s a requel (thanks to a commenter for that one). Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) – Clark’s son – is all grown up, with a family of us his own and wants to take his family on a road trip to Walley World. See what they did there? If you want to know what gags they retread, well…I already told you I barely remember NLV, so unless Rusty takes a hostage in order to gain admission to Walley World, all of the jokes will be new to me (SPOILER – he doesn’t).
To be fair to those stodgers, I had my reservations going in. I believe my exact words were “(Sigh) I guess I’ll check it out (Sigh).” However, during the trailer, there’s a scene in which Rusty’s two sons are sitting at the kitchen table and the older son, James (Skyler Gisondo), says to a girl “are you enjoying school?” The younger son, Kevin (Steele Stebbins) repeats the line in a mocking voice, then says “that’s what you sound like. Shut up!” It made me laugh during the trailer and it gave me just enough hope that I stayed cautiously optimistic. Much to my delight, not only did I laugh just as much at the “shut up” joke during the film, but I found myself (and the audience) laughing throughout the entire movie.
It’s rare that a comedy can keep up the laughs for the duration of the film. Most of them fizzle out after the second act because they sacrifice the comedy to bring the plot to a semi-serious close. Think about every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen and try to think of any jokes during the last half hour of the film. Even some straight comedies think their stories need to have some gravity and end up delivering sappy, bullshit endings for stories that weren’t very good to begin with. Vacation toes the line – the entire vacation is Rusty’s attempt at bringing his family closer and rekindling the flame with his wife – but it never forgets that the reason people paid to see it is for the jokes. And jokes there are a plenty.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil any of the jokes (the trailer does that plenty enough). Like I said, that’s why you’re there. For me, the jokes all seemed fresh (a quick look at the wiki page for NLV revealed that they did indeed retread some) and only a couple of them made me cringe. There’s an especially awkward minute early on involving Rusty competing with his neighbor’s show of affection towards his child. It reminded me of the competing maid of honor speeches in Bridesmaids – the joke goes on for far too long and is never funny at any point. But aside from that, Helms was funny, Christina Applegate (Rusty’s wife) was funnier, and the two kids were downright hilarious. And if that’s not enough for you, Chris Hemsworth plays a small role and delivers the best gag (a sight gag you can’t unsee) of the entire film.
Yes, NLV was funny in its day and still makes us laugh, but thirty years have gone by and comedy evolves just like any other genre. Vacation is a great entry in the series and anyone who says otherwise has probably yelled at more than one person to get off their lawn.
Rating: Don’t ask for any money back and try not to hurt yourself laughing.