VACATION Movie Review
In 1983, when Harold Ramis and John Hughes created National Lampoon’s Vacation, there was a fading sense of a wild west approach to their comedy that lingered from Saturday Night Live’s rebellious spirit in the late ’70s. The sceenplay that Hughes wrote balanced Ramis’ unruly approach to the disfunctional family dynamic by drawing inspiration from his own experiences and planting subtextual commentary on Baby Boomers inadvertently pushing their values onto their own children. The state of modern movies seems to now be in a place where remakes, sequels and reboots have become a desperate tactic to exploit nostalgia instead of progress the medium. As long as people show their approval with their wallets, it’s a step in evolution that movie enthusiuasts have come to begrudginly accept and meet half way.
Screenwriters turned first-time directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein (Horrible Bosses) aren’t particularly interested in provoking any sense of social commentary or developing any character growth for Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) and his own dysfunctional family in Vacation. Instead the Griswolds are essentially harbingers of their own misery and destruction through mean-spirited comedy sketches that they continuously get caught up in on their way to Wally World. Vacation wastes no time getting this family from one insane predictament to the next, and it maintains a brisk momentum that relies on wacky energy to carry the movie from beginning to end. When the situations hit hard — their visit to Rusty’s sister (Leslie Mann), a hilarious surprise cameo from Chris Hemsworth as Mann’s husband, or a dark comedic sequence that features a rafting instructor played by Charlie Day — Vacation has a fun energy that moves everything at a breakneck pace. Unfortunately, there are jokes that overstay their welcome, fall flat, or kill the momentum this comedy achieves, and takes everything back to square one.
In a crowded Hollywood landscape filled with movies targeted to exploit the same nostalgic audience that Vacation goes after, it’s a shame not a lot credit goes to modern movie audiences having any coherent intelligence. At least Vacation maintains the credibility to stick to its foul-mannered attitude and commit to the rebelious nature that fueled it’s predecessor back in ’83, even though there is nothing much of value driving this movie’s spirit other than attempting to cash in on an old comedy franchise. It’s sad to say that with this prevalent approach to mainstream movies has envoked the enthusiasm of expecting the worst and hoping for the better, but even if Vacation ended up having more laughs than expected, I would be as wrong to whole-heartedly recommend this; the people who threw this cash grab together and didn’t think you deserved any better.