"What kind of asshole would drive his family across the country?"
Out of all the comedy sequels, reboots and continuations that are being released as comedy continues to recycle ideas, this ‘vacation’ remake, actually makes sense as a concept. When you think about it times change but that universal theme of family will always be relevant (until cyborgs takeover of course). So does this reboot of Chevy Chase’s iconic comedy franchise live up to the originals?
With their marriage in crisis and their kids unresponsive, Rusty Griswold drags the rest of the family along on a madcap road trip. Their destination, a once beloved theme park called Wally World.
To prove to you how iconic those original movies are I only need to type the name Griswold out because I can do it without opening the spellcheck tool and clicking ‘Ignore All’. When Microsoft makes an exception for you, that’s when you’ve permeated pop culture. If this was the first ‘Vacation’ movie then it would be very unlikely that Microsoft would acknowledge their name in their virtual dictionary.
There are many problems with this movie but one of the worst is how close it comes to simply rehashing the original. There’s nothing new or interesting added beyond a cheapening of the humour (I’ll get to that later). Are we supposed to be surprised by certain plot elements, because they also appeared in the first one and by repeating them now you’re not impressing anyone. For me the film is already doomed as in my opinion a remake can create no greater sin than not adding anything new. If I wanted to re-watch the first ‘vacation’ movie, I would just re-watch the first ‘Vacation’ movie.
The beauty of the original was that this whole road trip was a metaphor for Chevy Chase’s character heading straight into a midlife crisis and trying to reconnect with something from his youth. But here there isn’t really any sign of that, I fact it’s the mother (Christina Applegate) that’s heading for an existential meltdown, but that doesn’t really make sense as it’s dad (Ed Helms) that drags them along on the holiday so how are the story and character relevant to each other? I know I said you should change up a few things but not if it doesn’t work.
Again of course it does that classic comedy mistake of putting every good joke in the trailer. Not only that, but even if they were funny in the trailer, with context around them they’re simply aren’t as funny because firstly you can anticipate them and secondly they are all strung together in such an episodic way that you begin to feel like you’re in some sort of sketch show. I know this is a trait with all road trip comedies but the best ones are consistent. Here it’s a weird mix of mayhem, attempted-but-not-quite-working Apatow comedy, slapstick and gross out humour. There’s barely any sign of the Harold Ramis style comedy that was abundant throughout the old ones. I’m not saying that it should be the same but if you want to make a film that can stand alongside the originals as part of a franchise then the tone needs to match. But instead of harkening back to the golden age of R rated comedy we just find ourselves bored by jokes about anatomy and excrement (because that’s a more sophisticated way of saying it).
What’s more is that these jokes start to lose what little potency they had as you are bombarded with them throughout. After a while hearing a seven year old swear and bully his older brother in increasingly horrible ways makes it slightly disturbing. It starts out as humorous, but ends up feeling sadistic.
It’s not really a reboot as it rehashes one too many elements from the original without matching the tone or characters. The cast may be good with the material they have, but the material happens to be terrible.