Holidays, or vacations as my American readers would call them (yes I have American readers because we international outchea baby!), can go one of either two ways. They can be unforgettable experiences which you will always treasure or they can be disappointing trips which you will never want to look back on. Unfortunately, Vacation is more towards the latter.
The film is the fifth sequel to 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation which is often considered to be a comedy classic (in all honesty I wouldn’t know as I haven’t seen it myself). To be fair to the writers and directorial debutants John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (who both co-wrote 2011’s hit Horrible Bosses) they make sure that you don’t need to have seen the any of the previous films in the franchise to enjoy Vacation. That is if you can enjoy Vacation at all.
Vacation starts off with pilot Rusty Griswold (The Hangover’s Ed Helms) realising that his wife Debbie (Anchorman’s Christina Applegate) and two sons James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) have grown extremely bored of their annual family trip to a cabin so he decides that they should switch things up and go on a cross country journey to the fictional theme park Walley World.
The Griswold’s road across The States turns out to be ill-fated as they encounter a few hazardous setbacks – a disaster with their rental car, an awkward family visit and some disastrous tourist stops as Rusty tries in vain to strengthen their family bond.
The comedy in Vacation is hit and mostly miss as many of the jokes comes across as being cheap and very predictable. There are some scenes which aim to encourage fits of giggles but will probably end encouraging fits of face palms.
There’s the scene where the family stop off at Debbie’s old university campus which starts off funny as her wild party animal accomplishments are embarrassingly listed in front of her unsuspecting family. But the slapstick comedy which follows is about as funny as a natural disaster in a Third World Country.
Another scene which fails miserably at being funny sees the Griswold’s take a dip into what they think is a natural spring. It turns out that they have been swimming in sewage water in a scene which appears hilarious in the small clip shown in the trailer. In actuality, the scene is far from hilarious as you feel as if you’ve just bathed in sh*t yourself.
The scene which easily wins the competition for being the unfunniest (if that’s a word) is where four police officers from different states argue with each about who gets to make the arrest. This scene just felt completely and utterly weird and unnecessary.
I could just reel off all off Vacation’s examples of bad humour but I’d be at it for a while as there are quite a few. To be fair to the film, when it is funny – it’s very funny as the jokes that do hit the mark will have you chuckling.
There’s the long running gags about the inappropriate use of a crude sex act, the useless Korean Sat-Nav setting and a great slow motion fight scene between the Griswolds and another family towards the end.
The cast give it their all to provide the chuckles, but ultimately the weak material they’re given to work with lets them down. Helms is perfect as the ever optimistic Rusty while Applegate is great as his fed up wife Debbie. Unfortunately they’re not a very convincing couple as I’ve seen better chemistry between a Palestinian and an Israelian.
Stebbins is at first hilarious as the foul mouthed 9 year old Kevin who torments his older brother but by the end of the film you’ll grow sick of him. Gisondo plays the geeky guitar playing teenager James very well as watching his awkwardness is enjoyable.
However the cast can only bring so much to the film as not even a super hero like Thor can save Vacation from disappointing. Well, Thor himself isn’t in it but the guy who plays him is, as Chris Hemsworth makes a rather boring extended cameo although the scene where he walks into Rusty and Debbie’s room is quite funny.
Speaking of super-heroes, the writers/directors of Vacation will be writing the first film of the brand new Spider-Man franchise in 2017. If these two don’t get their act together and write something much better than Vacation than Spidey will probably be getting yet another reboot after their version.
Vacation does have some moments of pure comedic gold but unfortunately it outweighed by too much comedic crap which. Films, particularly comedy films, are of course subjective though so you might find Vacation an absolute riot. I didn’t though as it scores a: