This ‘Vacation’ makes one homesick

Published 11:53 pm Thursday, July 30, 2015

Warner Brothers Pictures
Directed by Johnathan Goldstein
Starring Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chevy Chase, Leslie Mann and Chris Hemsworth
Rated R
1 1/2 stars

Hollywood continues its obsession with remaking old movies with decidedly mixed results. This time around it’s “Vacation,” a mild reboot of National Lampoon’s surprise 1983 hit of the same name.
In that original film, Chevy Chase took his family on an ill-fated cross country trip to the fictional Walley World amusement park. The new movie finds his son, Rusty (Ed Helms) all grown up and looking to bond with his own family by following in his father’s footsteps on another laugh-strewn family road adventure.
Rusty loads his wife and kids into the car and they hit the road. Everything immediately starts to go wrong. The car is strange, the people they meet are weird, and the family keeps running into all manner of misadventures. Most notably, very little of the family trip is actually very funny.
The original movie found its laughs by mocking the unassailable wholesomeness of the American family, but that’s not particularly shocking by contemporary standards, so the movie doesn’t have much bite. It is still rated R, but that’s mostly due to an abundance of bodily fluid humor. The family literally swims in a lake of sewage, which isn’t particularly funny, although it is something of a metaphor for the entire movie experience.
It’s a bit surprising, as the film looks good on paper. The cast is certainly game for their misadventures. Ed Helms is a good fit as the clueless and stubborn patriarch, and Christina Applegate gets some opportunities to exercise her comic chops—something Beverly D’Angelo was never allowed to try in the original film. Leslie Mann and Chris Hemsworth also make notable impressions with their cameo performances.
The problem is that these good-to-mediocre parts don’t add up to a satisfying whole. The film feels like a series of sketches strung together looking for a gross out gag to use as a finale. That means that there are moments of levity, but “Vacation” never builds up much story momentum and there are very few genuinely hearty laughs.
I can imagine a contemporary father wanting to relive a genuinely funny movie experience from his younger days, so he loads his wife and grown up kids into the car and heads off on a cross-town adventure to the movie theater. As is often the case in life, that father will find that this new movie can’t live up to the legacy of the original experience.
The family will have to settle for bonding over a tub of buttered popcorn while watching this occasionally amusing, but ultimately forgettable summer comedy.
Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen on KFDM and KBTV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at

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