National Lampoon’s Vacation is just a classic. There’s no two ways about it.
Everything about that movie makes me smile. Just hearing “Holiday Road” by itself just makes me want to laugh. What’s more, it’s one of the few times that a comedy spawned sequels that were also good movies. Sure, European Vacation was a step down, but it was still funny. Christmas Vacation is a holiday tradition at my house and, in my opinion, it rivals the original Vacation.
We don’t speak of Vegas Vacation.
I knew that a reboot/sequel to National Lampoon’s Vacation was coming. I’ve known for years. The signs and portents were everywhere. It was in my tea leaves. That waitress at the Chinese restaurant told me when I asked if I could have a refill of water. It was awfully off topic, but you know… whatever.
I’ve known that this movie was coming and I made peace with it. After all, there’s always a chance that it could be funny, right? Right?
So Rusty Griswold has grown up, been recast again, and has started his own family and, just like his father before him, he wants to bond with his family by taking them all on a roadtrip to Wallyworld, the Most Not Disneylandest Place on Earth. Of course, everything that can go wrong does go wrong and laughs are supposed to be had along the way.
National Lampoon’s Vacation, to me at least, really captured the feel of taking a family roadtrip. Clark was a dreamer who wore rose-colored glasses and, through it all, you laughed at everything happening to him, but you wanted to see him succeed. That moment at the end of Christmas Vacation, for example, when he quietly muses, “I did it” is such a wonderful scene because you can see that he’s at peace and quietly surprised that he’s there. What I’m trying to say is, the old Vacation movies had so much heart stuffed into them that they never get old.
The new Vacation gets old with its very first gross out gag. It’s content with thinking that pools of feces, puking mothers, and splattered cows are hilarious and, to be honest… I think that the previous Vacation movies set a bar so high that this movie should have been above that. It was crass, crude, gross and worst of all, not funny.
The thing that stings most is that there are a few moments in the movie where it works. The ongoing gag with the semi-truck is played wonderfully, but those moments are sparse at best. When Vacation isn’t pointing at poop and screaming about how funny it is, it’s busy rehashing the first Vacation movie from the oldest boy’s sexual confusion to the weird and ugly vacation car… we’ve seen it and it’s been done far better than this.
The characters in this movie are okay, but I have words about the youngest brother and, trust me, it’s not the actor’s fault… this is purely the writing behind the character but, oh my gentle lamb… this is the most annoying kid I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. I wanted to see this kid hit by a car. I wanted to see him drown in a river. I wanted to see him gored by a bull. I wanted to see this little jerk die because the character was just that horrible. Again, not funny… just horrible. I can’t believe no one involved in this making of this movie didn’t have the same thought.
Vacation isn’t a worthy followup, it’s not a worthy spin-off, and it’s not a worthy reboot. It’s not as funny as it should be, it wallows in gross out gags, and many of the jokes go exactly the way you think they’re going to go the second that the sequence is set up.
The best part of the movie is probably when Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo show up for their too-short cameo, but all during that sequence the only thought you’re going to have is the sad realization that Father Time has taken a baseball bat to poor Clark Griswold and beat the youth out of him with it.
Do yourself a favor and just rent the original three Vacation movies. I know there’s a rumor of a movie where Clark went to Vegas, but that’s a lie. Don’t go looking for it.