Dir: John Francis Daley & Jonathan M. Goldstein
Writer(s): John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein
Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann, Catherine Missal, Charlie Day, Ron Livingston, Keegan-Michael Key, Regina Hall, Beverly D’Angelo, and Chevy Chase
Synopsis: Rusty Griswold takes his own family on a road trip to “Walley World” in order to spice things up with his wife and reconnect with his sons.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
The Vacation movies have always had a loyal fanbase and in some cases have a special place in people’s hearts. To be honest, I was never a hardcore fan of the movies – I’ve actually only watched two – but I could see why they are well liked. So when Vacation was announced, I wasn’t up in arms like most people. In fact, I wasn’t really anticipating much from it. So, does Vacation really stand on its own like Rusty claims in the trailer? For the most part yes, yes it does.
Vacation follows an adult Rusty Griswold (Helms), who sees that his family is in a funk, and doesn’t want to take them on their annual vacation spot, which happens to be a cabin, decides to take them and recreate his trip to Walley World. So he rents a foreign car, that is truly outrageous once we see all its “features” and tells his wife Debbie (Applegate), oldest and a bit nerdy son James (Gisondo) and youngest who actually picks on his older brother, Kevin (Stebbins) to pack up and get ready for an adventure. Of course, in classic Griswold fashion, it all goes downhill from there.
Writers and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (who will write the new solo Spider-Man movie for Marvel and Sony) show that they do love and respect the original films with small references to the original movies, but never going over-the-top and hitting us over the head with them. Even if you didn’t watch the original movies, you’ll still enjoy, or at least hopefully enjoy, the movie. It never tries to copy the original beat for beat, which honestly helps the movie be its own thing. Of course there are obvious callbacks like the flirty beautiful girl in the convertible.
Vacation does fall into the more common raunchy joke territory that some comedies are doing, and while some work, others just fall flat or aren’t even funny. The movie also has some “dirty” (poop and puke jokes) humor that, again, work every now and then. In fact some of those jokes – at least to me – worked better than the raunchy jokes that felt thrown in just for shock value. Then again, comedy is subjective, so you may find more jokes funnier than I did, but I will say I laughed a lot watching this.
However, the jokes wouldn’t be funny without the delivery of the cast. Thankfully the cast works together. Ed Helms, who I’m not the most huge fan of, is relatable as Rusty here. All he wants is to get his family together and try to have a fun experience, but he’s funnier reacting to the situations that are going on around him. Christina Applegate isn’t the overbearing, non-supportive wife but has her moments to shine and holds her own. The brother dynamic is flipped on its head as the older brother is actually getting picked on by the younger brother. Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins work really well off each other and are given great material to play out. The great thing about the family is that they are all given different personalities and we can see them as individuals instead of just being a family unit. I know that probably sounds dumb, but sometimes we just know a family in the movie because they all act similar to each other, here, we know each character separately, which helps when they’re paired off with each other or have their own moment to shine.
The supporting cast is also pretty great, but also feels like some opportunities were missed over just passed over. Chris Hemsworth looked like he enjoyed himself playing Rusty’s brother-in-law and full of himself TV weatherman Stone Crandall, who is married to Rusty’s sister, Audrey played by Leslie Mann. Hemsworth’s extended cameo adds some great laughs to the film, while the always reliable Mann is underused to the point that it feels like they wanted another big name to the movie or are hoping that sequels are announced so she can have a big role. There is another part to two that is merely touched upon that I kind of wanted to see more of, but seeing that movie is about Rusty and his family, it makes sense that they are not a focus.
There are some other cameos like Charlie Day’s water rafting guide, which is actually a better scene than I would have thought. Keegan-Michael Key’s scene happens early on in the movie and is just okay. There are two other cameos that I didn’t even know was going to happen so I’ll just leave you to enjoy them. However, the “big” cameos are from original stars Beverly D’Angelo and Chevy Chase as Ellen and Clark. Unfortunately, this element of the movie is lackluster. Chase feels like he’s trying to hard in the small amount of screentime he has and D’Angelo is barley seen. The scene is near the end of the movie and it actually derails the movie. Again, the movie is about Rusty and his family, but these two character of Clark and Ellen were what started all this, and to see the two characters essentially pumping the brakes on a movie that is for all intent-and-purposes a continuation of the legacy they paved.
All in all, Vacation works on most levels. The main cast is great and gel really well together while delivering their lines to almost perfection. Some of the humor works better than others, but for the most part you’ll be laughing with your theater. There are some missed opportunities here and there, but overall, Vacation is worth the watch.
3.5 out of 5