A grown-up Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) plans a cross-country road trip with his wife and two sons in a bid to revive the lost ties between them. However, their trip turns into a series of mishaps for the family.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have finally made it to the end of my Vacation film series marathon. This past week, I have been watching and reviewing every single entry in the franchise that I have not already reviewed. I didn’t rewatch Christmas Vacation this week because I already published a review for that film back in December, but I did review every other movie in the series.
Ever since the beginning of this marathon, the film that I was the most worried to watch was none other than this film – John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s Vacation sequel/reboot. Back when I saw it in the theatre five years ago it didn’t resonate with me and as a massive fan of this series, it left me feeling quite underwhelmed, and I couldn’t help but feel as though the filmmakers could’ve done a much better job with this story. I was hoping that this rewatch would make me appreciate the film a little bit more, but sadly, it didn’t. My thoughts on this film are essentially the same thoughts I had while leaving the theatre all those years ago.
There are a lot of problems with this movie that people have pointed out over the years. The humor is massively unfunny for the most part. It’s an extremely raunchy movie with so many swears and sexual innuendos that it makes you roll your eyes. The original Vacation films from thirty years ago had some sexual references every now and then, but the core humor was very much so witty and clever. Here, the humor is not at all reminiscent of the humor that was so excellently incorporated in the original.
But as bad as the jokes are in this film, that is still not my number one problem with Vacation. My number one problem with it is that they made Rusty Griswold even more of a clumsy, goofy moron that his father Clark. This is not only a gigantic betrayal of Rusty’s character and story over the years, but it makes absolutely no sense. Why? In every single Vacation movie thus far, the filmmakers have shown us that Rusty is ten times smarter than his father. He is always one step ahead of him and tries to stop him before doing anything stupid that will get him in trouble or before he can hurt himself.
In the original film from 1983, he is always calling out Clark on his stupid mistakes that he makes throughout the film and stays one step ahead of him throughout. The same thing goes with Christmas Vacation. The Rusty of that film shakes his head whenever he realizes that Clark wants to string up more Christmas lights than anybody could imagine. He recognizes that Clark is going to get hurt while hanging these lights (which is exactly what happens) and tries to tell him in advance that it’s a bad idea. The Rusty in this Vacation would probably end up doing something even more ridiculous.
Throughout the entire series, they have shown to the audience that Rusty is so much smarter than Clark, so the fact that they make him even more accident-prone and even more goofy in this entry is beyond me. If you really stop to think about it, Clark is the only member of the Griswold family that isn’t too bright. His wife Ellen is always trying to stop him before he does anything stupid, as is Rusty and Audrey in every single movie.
Speaking of Audrey, they completely butchered her character here as well. In the original films, she is a sweet girl that just wants to get the most enjoyment possible out of the road trips that she embarks on with her family. Here, they make Audrey quite rude and annoying. Thankfully, she isn’t in the movie much though. In one of the worst scenes in the entire film, when having a big family dinner, Rusty tells Audrey that he is taking his family to Walley World to which Audrey basically calls the idea completely stupid and starts making fun of him about it. Audrey is extremely unlikable here.
But Vacation is not all bad. It does have some genuinely great moments in here that I need to touch upon. The humor is bad for the most part, yes. But there were some instances in which I genuinely did laugh quite a bit in this film. It’s just that I wish there were more of those moments. If the film wasn’t so raunchy and disgusting, this probably would’ve been a hilarious movie, but because the majority of the jokes are sexual references, it just becomes so stale after a while.
There are some truly excellent scenes on display here though. One of my favorite scenes in the entire film is when Rusty and the family are going whitewater rafting which ends up being an absolute nightmare. That scene was so great and extremely well-done. We needed more scenes like that one.
But my favorite scene in all of Vacation is without a doubt, the scene in which Rusty and the group stop at Clark and Ellen’s house to stay the night in the third act. Seeing an older Clark Griswold brought a tear to my eye. Gratefully, the Clark in this movie is the same Clark we know and love from the previous installments. He is an idiot, but a lovable idiot. He is always trying to do whatever he can to make his family happy which is always such a delight to watch. If that wasn’t amazing enough, there’s a scene shortly after where he gives Rusty the Wagon Queen Family Truckster from the original film while Lindsey Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” plays in the background. It’s nostalgia and fan service done right.
Aside from those things, another aspect to this movie that I genuinely enjoyed was the family dynamic between Rusty and his family. Just like in the original Vacation film, these people don’t really get along at all. Kevin (Steele Stebbins) always harasses his older brother James (Skyler Gisondo) and teases him for the littlest things. Meanwhile Rusty and Debbie (Christina Applegate) are having a lot of problems with their marriage. They feel like that spark is perhaps dying just a little bit. Rusty thinks that by taking his family to Walley World and going across the country with them on a road trip will bring them closer together. Seeing these moments of family bonding were incredibly sweet to watch and made me so happy.
That’s what the Vacation movies are all about to me. They are, at the end of the day, movies about a crazy, eccentric family that doesn’t always get along with one another, but learns to truly appreciate each other by the end of it all. I was glad to see that this new Vacation movie understood the family aspect to the story. I just wish that the film as a whole was stronger than it was. The story feels like an exact rehash of the first film. The filmmakers more than likely didn’t have a clue as to how they could come up with an original idea for the story, which is why at times, the film feels almost like a remake instead of a reboot. The humor is fairly bad for the most part and is way too raunchy for anybody’s liking. There are quite a few nuggets of goodness sprinkled throughout, but there are definitely more negatives here than positives.
Despite the fact that at the end of the day, I don’t like this movie, I genuinely do wish that they made a sequel to this. Maybe hire a brand new screenwriter and director that truly understands the humor of the series and we could get a great sequel. Personally, I thought the cast was quite decent for what they were asked to do. I may not like the character of Kevin because he is just so annoying, but I can tell that Steele Stebbins had fun portraying the character and I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing him tackle the role again, as long as they made him less annoying the next time around. Here’s hoping there will be a next time, because I think that the Vacation film series still has a lot of steam and I would love to travel down holiday road one more time.
Overall Grade: C
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content and language throughout, and brief graphic nudity
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: July 29, 2015
Running Time: 99 minutes