Vacation: Film Review
Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann, Chevy Chase
Director: John Francis Daley, Jonathan M Goldstein
There's a moment in Vacation where the holidaying Griswold family, led by the put-upon dad of the group Rusty (Ed Helms) inadvertently bathe in raw sewage, mistaking the pools for a secret getaway.
It's something akin to how I felt at moments during the extremely patchy retake of the original Vacation film from the National Lampoon series.
The aforementioned Rusty is a pilot for low-rent air operator EconoAir - determined to shake his vacation time up after hearing his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) dismiss their continual trips to their holiday cabin, he rounds up his wife and two sons and bundles them in a car for a 2500 mile road trip to Walley World.
But, everything that can go wrong for Rusty and his clan does on the cross-country journey.
Vacation has its moments.
It's just that they are too few and far in between - and unfortunately, even though this has some nods to the original film, it's just not enough to carry them through and the punchlines are more often than not a weak denouement to the set up.
Both Helms and Applegate bring their all to the physical comedy elements of the script. Applegate herself excels at a scene at her former sorority where she's required to down a pitcher of beer and take on a Wipeout style course, and I won't deny there are laughs within, but the conclusion is similar to the air being let out of a balloon.
The dynamic between the bickering sons is nicely twisted, with the younger being more of a bully to the older bringing some meaner and welcome edges to the uneven script. But those in charge just don't seem to know what they want for the film and there's definitely a feeling that some of this potentially looked better on paper than in execution.
Certainly, Hemsworth's Southern drawl and six pack with prosthesis shows he's game as Rusty's brother in law, but the over-playing of that sequence suggests the kind of moment that's funny once, got a laugh and the directors decided to repeat the gag ad nauseum for no comic relief. More successful is Charlie Day's appearance as a white-water rafting guide, a sequence whose comic brevity speaks volumes to the ethos that punchy rather than paunchy comedy would have been the way to go.
And most embarrassingly, Chevy Chase's appearance at the end as the dad is nothing short of excruciatingly unfunny - it's painful to watch the comedy legend floundering around working a script that doesn't serve him well.
All in all, there just aren't enough laughs in Vacation, despite Helms' everyman touches and Applegate's willingness to humiliate herself, this is one cinematic holiday and road trip you should dread being dragged along on.