Film review: VACATION, from ‘Built For Speed’

The original National Lampoon’s Vacation from 1983 was an amiable, occasionally risqué comic farce that cheerfully and amusingly exploited the trauma of family holidays and in particular road trips. Building on an enjoyably silly performance from lead Chevy Chase as slightly deranged patriarch Clark Griswold, that film generated enough good will to warrant a number of sequels of admittedly decreasing quality.  The current remake/ sequel/ reboot simply titled Vacation has none of the endearing qualities that made the 80’s original such fun.  This witless, predictable, mean-spirited, unfunny film is simply an attempt to cash in on current dubious comedy tastes and Gen X nostalgia by stuffing the concept of the original film into the Hangover raunch comedy template.

Here, Rusty Griswold, Clark’s Son (Ed Helms) apparently having no memory of what a nightmare  the original journey was, decides to emulate his Dad and take the family on a treacherous trip to the fabled theme park Wally World.  His family, wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and sons James (Skyler Grisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) couldn’t be less enthusiastic.  Like the original film Vacation is essentially a road trip fraught with disaster as the family are robbed by hillbillies and menaced by psychotic truckies. Instead of making amusing observations about white suburban families taken out of their element, though, this film drags its cast through a degrading obstacle course of humiliations that at one point see them literally swimming in faeces.

In place of anything resembling wit the film resorts to thuddingly obvious gross humour and dick jokes. You could hear crickets during many of the jokes which include a failed attempt at a self-referential meta gag about this film being a sequel. There’s also a supposedly hilarious twist in which the leering repulsive younger brother mercilessly bullies his sensitive dorky older brother but the youngster is such a demonic little bastard that his antics aren’t remotely funny except perhaps to a psychopath. While many of the gags are simply lame, the jokes about rape, dementia and a running gag mocking Asian people are utterly reprehensible. 

This embarrassment of a film is made barely tolerable by the seasoned comic skills of Christina Applegate and Ed Helms who provide some feint flickers of humour.  Otherwise, performances are mostly awful including a very awkward turn by Chris Hemsworth as Rusty’s the ab-flexing meat-head brother in law whose Texan accent is a unconvincing as the fake penis he displays in one scene. The fact that a rising star like Hemsworth signed on to this disaster is mind-boggling.  Belated appearances by Chevy Chase and Beverley D’Angelo do little except remind us that the memory of much better film is being trashed.

Nick’s rating: *1/2.

Genre: Comedy?

Classification: MA 15+.

Director(s): John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein.

Release date: 20th July 2015.

Running time: 99 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 


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