I enjoyed the old National Lampoon’s Vacation series, and as far as I’m concerned, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is one of the must-watch Yuletide films. They embraced silliness and a whimsy that is lacking from many modern comedies. While much of the humour may not exactly be subtle, there was an ability to underplay some of the funnier moments, allowing the audience to enjoy them without having it forced down their throats. Equally, there was overtness to other scenes which tried to shock and pull viewers out of their comfort-zones, but without ever stretching too far. Throughout it all, there was the family – the Griswolds. A totally dysfunctional family brought together by a loving if clumsy father trying to do the right thing, trying to bring his family together, trying to give them, and all of us, a fun time. They didn’t always work perfectly, but they have charm, wit, and humour throughout along with the iconic Chevy Chase as the patriarch and Beverley D’Angelo as his long suffering spouse.
The new Vacation
The new Vacation film focusses on the old Griswold family’s son, Rusty (played by another new actor), who is now a man with a family of his own. As can be seen in the trailer, the new Vacation once again revolves around a Griswold family vacation, with Rusty leading his family on an journey with apparently hilarious consequences… I’ll be honest, the first time I watched the trailer I was not looking forward to watching this film. Having seen it at least 4 times now (as a trailer for every single film I’ve seen in the cinema lately!) I was looking forward to it even less, but there was still a faint glimmer of hope that it might, just might be able to rediscover the joy of the originals.
It doesn’t! It’s awful. It has almost no redeeming qualities whatsoever so I’m not even going to bother withholding any spoilers, because at least if you read them here, you won’t have to suffer 97 minutes of crass, vulgar, unfunny garbage.
It gets off to a bad start right from the get-go with Rusty (the son from the original films played by a different actor) as an airline pilot with a co-pilot who, hysterically appears to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and who Rusty, after seeing his forgetfulness, decides to leave in charge of the plane. More hilarity ensues as Rusty leaves the cockpit and talks to a family including Colin Hanks only to be thrown about by turbulence with various “humorous” consequences including the rather obvious groping of the wife. These scenes only go to reconfirm that there is almost no plane based humour that Airplane hasn’t already done, and done better.
Once landed Rusty is waiting for a shuttle bus, only to have Ron Livingston and two members of cabin crew take his spot because he’s a nice guy. When he does arrive home, he finds his youngest son bullying his oldest son again – apparently it is a common occurrence. The older son is sensitive and well-meaning which obviously makes him weird while the younger son is utterly vile and obnoxious, but his parents do absolutely nothing of substance to stop his torrent of abuse (this child represents the film as a whole – absolutely nothing redeeming about him at all from start to finish).
Next scene is a family dinner in which we meet a neighbouring family who are genuinely close if rather goofy and annoying. Yet even they cannot make these Griswolds likeable as the whole family continues their dysfunctional nonsense. The only moment of slight levity is a conversation between Christina Applegate’s mother character and the mother of the other family revolving around the formers lack of likes on the latter’s Instagram. Seriously, that was the only bit that offered any change to the soulless, humourless opening few minutes.
During the dinner we learn that the two sons and wife actually hate the Griswold family holiday, but endure it to appease Rusty, which of course he overhears. In an attempt to change things, he decides to do the same trip to Walley World from the original film. They even reference the original pointing out that this version was clearly going to be different because it has 2 boys instead of a boy (rusty) and a girl. They do, however, skip the bit about the original actually being funny!
As you can see from the trailer, this all takes place in a silly car from Albania, because apparently we Europeans are crazy with bizarre cars and technology that don’t make sense to normal people. What an original joke!
The actual road trip takes us through further barrage of abuse and bullying from the younger sibling towards the older sibling, for which the parents do nothing as Applegate’s character returns to her sorority, where she was the craziest, wildest sister, much to the surprise of Clark. She then tries to relive her youthful
stupidity exuberance by drinking a pitcher of beer and doing an obstacle course – which she invented when at the sorority – but of course now that she’s old, she can’t do it and fails amid copious amounts of vomit…which is apparently just hysterical despite having been obvious from the start.
They also do the hot springs bit that is pretty much covered in the trailer, and visit Rusty’s sister, Audrey and her husband played by Chris Hemsworth who is a right wing weatherman – the relevance of which is never actually addressed. There is some apparent humour with a cow eating beef ribs, and Rusty running into a cow on a quad bike resulting in him being covered by guts and gore and a less than happy Hemsworth, and thankfully we move on.
Somewhere during the trip I experienced my first actual chuckle – when the parents are almost arrested at the Four State monument. The parents, having sneaked out on their kids to try to recapture the moment, end up escaping as police from the four different states argue over jurisdiction and state boundaries. For a film that up to that point lack any subtlety or humour, it was executed rather well, with the moment of mirth coming after the Griswolds had escaped as the cops all end up lying on the ground with their guns in front of them and arms by their sides, while all issuing the same instructions.
Oh and there is also a sub-plot with a trucker (The Walking Dead’s Daryl Dixon) who is trying to return the Applegate’s wedding ring which fell off because of all the weight she lost before the film, and which he found at a truck stop. The truck appears at regular intervals with the family thinking the trucker is trying to kill them, which is entirely understandable given that someone who was just trying to return a ring would be unlikely to ram the vehicle of that person.
Also the relationship between the brothers changes during the trip after the older brother, prompted by his love interest, decides that he has had enough of the bullying and tries to bully him back. That’s it basically. If you’re being bullied and hit and sworn at and abused, the solution apparently is to just return that back and everything is sorted. With that, the trip basically comes to an end. Rusty points out that everything he does, he does for his family because he loves them, which makes his wife and children feel like the ungrateful idiots, they have been throughout the entire film to that point.
With all that covered, they end up at a B&B run by Rusty’s parents, Clark and Ellen Griswold. It was at this point, after nearly 90 minutes, that I enjoyed my first actual full laugh during the whole of the film, and it was all down to Chevy Chase. It had almost nothing to do with the rest of the family and proved what Community fans already knew, Chase can still be very funny!
Sadly Chase and D’Angelo get little more than a couple of minutes on screen before we have to endure more of the new Griswolds who finally make it to Walley World and the Velociraptor ride only to be legitimately jumped in the queue by Livingston’s family. A fight ensues, which is basically covered by the trailer, and the Griswolds get onto the ride, singing Seal’s Kiss from a Rose (a “joke” that has been going throughout the whole film). Unsurprisingly the ride breaks-down mid-track with the family upside down.
Even that wasn’t the end. We then see them at the airport with the kids getting ready to fly home, while the parents head off to Paris, but have to sit in the Cabin Crew seats next to a toilet. hahahaha…ahahahaha
Thankfully, the film comes in at just under 100 minutes, so I didn’t have to endure even more of it, but a maximum of 2 laughs in 99 minutes is not a good return. Unlike Hughes’ originals 2015 Vacation has no warmth, no subtlety and no class. It resorts to common comedy tropes of foul-mouthed children, vulgar college humour, and what it thinks is innuendo, all of which have been done numerous times before, and almost always done much, much better.
Other people in the cinema did laugh, at what I’m not entirely sure, but if it was at the film, then there is clearly a problem – either with them for liking a really bad film, or me for not liking a really bad film, I’m not sure which yet. I enjoy many comedies old and new, and have no problem with crass, vulgar humour providing it is done well. I don’t find people swearing for the sake of it funny and in this film it actually felt somewhat jarring, nor do I find blatant attempts at obvious humour that is telegraphed scenes in advanced particularly funny.
There are plenty of comedies that manage to be funny while having a soul and a story that I genuinely care about and executing funny moments and silly characters well. Unfortunately I didn’t care about a single character in this film and it is without doubt the least funny, most generic, most pathetic comedy films I have had the misfortune of watching in the cinema. It is very telling about the quality of the film as a whole that a 2-minute Chevy Chase cameo is funnier than the other 97 minutes without him.
Source: Warner Bros