The Griswold family is back and this time Clark (Chevy Chase) makes another one of his spirited attempts to plan the perfect family vacation. This time he visits the casinos and glitzy attractions of Las Vegas.
“Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half the fun!” Clark Griswold tells his son Rusty in Harold Ramis’ National Lampoon’s Vacation, released in 1983. It seems as though the filmmakers behind Vegas Vacation forgot all about that moment from the original film, as during the opening moments of the fourth installment in the long-running Vacation series, Clark and the rest of the family are already in Las Vegas.
It may sound like a small thing to complain about, but it’s something that got on my nerves while watching this film. I agree with Clark’s statement above. Going on vacation is a fun thing to do. The destination is obviously going to be exciting and memorable, but oftentimes the most important and memorable moments from those vacations come from the journey side of things. This rings true to my own life as well. Throughout the course of the years, I have been on a number of vacations to different states and countries even. I loved the hot sun and tropical feeling of Mexico and seeing Times Square in New York City but as fun as that was for me, I vividly remember the journey to both places more so than the actual destination.
Having the Griswold family experience mishap after mishap on their road trip to Walley World in the original film was extremely hilarious and came with a lot of heart. They bonded with one another during their trip and seeing their numerous desperate attempts to get to the amusement park created for some of the most memorable moments in a comedy ever.
In Vegas Vacation, there is no time for family bonding and getting to know each other on a personal level because they are already in Las Vegas from the start. Right at the beginning of the movie, it was quite obvious to me that the screenwriter Elisa Bell didn’t really know what to do with this story. The entire movie is just an endless series of ridiculous moments that lead absolutely nowhere and none of these scenes have any feeling of warmth or heart to them. It feels so satirical but not in a good way.
Every single Vacation movie, even the new 2015 reboot, has a sense of heart and warmth radiating from it. They all touch on themes of family bonding and learning to enjoy the time you spend with one another, except for this one. Vegas Vacation feels one-hundred percent like one of those direct-to-DVD movies you would see in the bargain bin at a store rather than a theatrical movie.
Aside from there not being a good story or a sense of heart present throughout, the movie is also just extraordinarily unfunny. All of the films in the series utilize witty humor to the fullest degree, but this one does the opposite. It aims for the cheapest and most childish jokes that will make even the most hardcore fans of this franchise roll their eyes. Clark may be a lovable idiot, but here, he is just an idiot.
Speaking of Clark though, Chevy Chase and his long-time co-star Beverly D’Angelo are the two good things in this movie. They were definitely a sight for sore eyes here. Despite the terrible screenplay, characters, and humor on display, these two actors, yet again, brought their A-game to the table. It’s always such a treat to see these two working on screen with one another, and this was no exception.
But really, they were the only two saving graces of the entire movie. This was such a painfully unfunny movie with annoying characters, an extremely boring story, and no sense of charm anywhere throughout. Surprisingly, for years, I always regarded the 2015 Vacation reboot as the worst film in the series, but I was wrong. I would rather watch Steele Stebbins as Kevin Griswold swear at his older brother Kevin than watch any scene from Vegas Vacation ever again.
Vegas Vacation is a shockingly awful conclusion to the original series of Vacation films due to its poor jokes, terrible characters, and its severe lack of heart and charm that the other films displayed so excellently.
Overall Grade: D-
MPAA Rating: PG for sensuality, language, and thematic elements
Directed by: Stephen Kessler
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Release Date: February 14, 1997
Running Time: 93 minutes