The original “Vacation” was one of the first R-rated films I ever watched, and while the film — at least by today’s standards — is pretty tame, I still felt pretty badass amongst my fifth grade peers. But despite this landmark achievement in my life, the remake of “Vacation” never really came on my radar as a “must see.”
The film has an incredibly talented comedic cast, fine filmmakers behind the camera and even appearances by some of the original cast. I never understood why it didn’t necessarily stand out to me. Going into seeing “Vacation,” I was somewhat ready to get it over with, but I took my chance with this movie. The lights went down, the New Line Cinema logo played and the opening credits started.
Then, I ate my words.
In the three minute opening credits set to the iconic “Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham featured in the original film, I was laughing very, very hard. I won’t spoil what’s in store for those opening three minutes, but it’s worth noting. After that point, “Vacation” brought the R-rated laughs in spades.
Is it a good movie? Not really. It exists only to lead this unfortunate family from one mishap to the other, with no real resemblance of a true plot. It’s more of a sketch piece than a cohesive film, but isn’t that what makes the “Vacation” movies great? This film isn’t “Trainwreck,” with the laughs simply surrounding the plot. “Vacation” is a movie that’s going to make you laugh through and through.
“Vacation” isn’t so much a remake as it is a glorified sequel, which works better in its own right, as it pulls less comparison to the original and opens up much more creative freedom. Ed Helms takes the role of Rusty Griswold, a role played by a different actor in every “Vacation” installment. Rusty decides in the beginning of this film to attempt to recreate his ’80s family trip to Walley World with his own family, wanting to bond and do it right this time around, but we all know this will not be the case.
Christina Applegate is Rusty’s affable, but longing wife who readily accompanies him on this adventure, even if she doesn’t have complete faith in its success. Helms and Applegate have wonderful chemistry together and really combine into something that’s as good as the original.
A strange, yet completely winning addition to the film comes in the presence of Chris Hemsworth as Stone Crandall, Rusty’s brother-in-law. You wouldn’t think that Thor would have comedy chops, especially putting on a thick Texas accent over his typical Australian accent. What Hemsworth delivers, aside from one topic I wish they had touched on more for uncomfortable humor’s sake, is comedy gold. Hemsworth steals every scene he’s in and provides some of the heftiest laughs in the whole film. Thor laid the comedic hammer.
Writer/directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley do a good job staging each scene for the best comedic output they can get from it. Utilizing the most of their cast and wonderful locations. Being a comedy film, though, the direction takes a second seat to the writing, which is sharp, hilarious and intuitive as noted before. Not every joke sticks, but for the majority that do, Goldstein and Daley find it in perfect timing for the film, creating the film’s brisk pace. Blink, and you might just miss it.
Is “Vacation” as good as the original ’80s film? No. No one expected it to be. Is “Vacation” funny? Hell yes. Almost every set piece provides gut-busting laughs and uncomfortable situations, which is all we ask for in a “Vacation” movie.
It was nice seeing all the homages to the original. Helms and Applegate make a killer team, and with each cameo, shocker, gross-out, gut-buster and sweet moment, “Vacation” justifies every more reason for its existence. Right on.
P.S. To the woman who sat behind me, who felt the need to loudly narrate every scene to the whole audience, everyone hates you.
Directed by: Jonathan Goldstein & John Frances Daley
Starring: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Leslie Mann, Beverly D’Angelo, with Chris Hemsworth as Stone Crandall, and Chevy Chase.
Runtime: 99 minutes
Rating: R for crude and sexual content and language throughout, and brief graphic nudity.
New Line Cinema presents, a Benderspink/Big Kid Pictures production, “Vacation”