Vacation: Nostalgic Romp Stuck in the 1980s

vacation_posterFollowing in the footsteps of Pixels, Adam Sandler’s terrible infantile comedy of last weekend, Vacation is yet another misfire of a comedy, a nostalgic romp, lacking much charm, fun or wit.

Rank: C+ (** out of *****)

Three decades later, a similar comedy, simply called Vacation, tries to capture the essence of those old family romps with its mixture of silly but good-natured humor, broad slapstick, some raunchy lines, and above all a feel-good tone rarely seen these day in American comedies–or any other genre.


I am surprised that the studio has decided to reveal so many of the film’s truly good and humorous moments in its trailers–they are spolier alert.

vacation_11_helms_applegatePoory Written and haphazardly directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, the new Vacation tries hard–but to little effect to be naturally and spontaneously–hilarious, resulting in a picture that’s immediately forgettable–and disposable.

Ed Helms (The Office), a gifted, under-used and underappreciated thespian, plays Rusty Griswold, the grown up son from the original comedy, in which the parents were played by Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angello.

Married to resigned wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and father of two bickering (and often obnoxious) sons (Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins), he is endlessly and hopelessly optimistic, trying to find the positive and upbeat aspects in the worst situations possible, and other unlikely places.

vacation_9_helms_applegateHere is a uniquely American character, a middle-aged, middle-class man, whose main goal in life seems to be keeping his dysfunctional family together.

In a thin narrative that’s pale imitation of the first picture, Vacation centers on how Rusty recreates the same 2,500-mile odyssey to Walley World that he took with his parents 32 years earlier.  The road is expectedly full of disappointment, frustrations, humiliations, and other horrific experiences

vacation_6_helms_applegateUltimately though, Helmes is not as grounded a comedian as Chevy Chase was at his prime, lacking the latter’s gravitas, anger, on-the-edge behavior; you never knew what would come out of Chase’s mouth or how exactly he would react to his endless chain of disasters.

Leslie Mann and Chris Hemsworth, as her cock-flashing hubby, register strongly in the briefest of screen time.

The gags about pedophiles, already overused subjects in stand-up comedy, or efforts at raucous R-rated humor (eating shit) and raunchy talk reflect, more than anything else, desperation to grab the attention of young viewers that dominate the marketplace; I doubt if old-timers of Chase age would see the picture in the plex on its opening weekend.

vacation_5_hemsworthPresumably a fresh, next-generation reboot, deep down Vacation is just a nostalgic and sentimental look at–or warm visit of –American comedy history of the past three decades