Film Review: Vacation

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Vacation Plot Summary:

In this sequel to the Vacation series, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) embarks on a road trip with his own family to Wally World, the same amusement park he went to as a kid. Rusty learns he’s just as cursed as that original vacation, where everything seems to go wrong.

I had hope. I really did. I like Ed Helms. I like Christina Applegate. The trailers were mildly amusing. But make no mistake – this movie is a complete and utter miss. A bad miss. It’s not the type of comedy that makes me angry like Trainwreck, but in some ways, it’s worse at how offensively unfunny it is. There’s nothing risky or outlandish here. It’s just really, really, really not funny. I got maybe two-three half chuckles. That’s it. The movie is just over 90 minutes, but it felt like 2.5 hours. That’s all you need to know.

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The warning signs came early. They start with this very awkward, and almost uncomfortable montage of random family vacation photos that I’m guessing are real. It’s photos of guys in bathing suits with erections, old people looking confused, and vomiting, lots of vomiting. It was an odd way to start, but appropriately sets the tone for the entire movie. The comedy was just weird, and not in a good way. One of the long running jokes is the younger brother, Kevin (Steele Stebbins), bullying his overly sensitive older brother (Skyler Gisondo). Kevin literally jokes about killing him. I get what they’re trying to do, but it felt uncomfortable. The only laughs in the theater were a couple awkward chuckles. This is the type of humor that permeates throughout the entire film. It’s not funny, just strange.

Ed Helms and Christina Applegate try their best in the first half hour, but then seem to give up. I don’t blame them. They are given absolutely nothing to work with. I blame this mostly on writers/directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, who also wrote the “hilarious” The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (and to be fair, Horrible Bosses, but the actors elevated that script). I can honestly say this is one of worst directed comedies I’ve seen in years. Every time there’s potential for a decent bit, they ruin it. The editing is atrocious. There’s a sequence with Charlie Day as a river guide that could have worked, but when you see the sequence play out, it’s one of the most botched and pathetic comedic bits I’ve seen in a long time. The entire film is littered with these types of scenes.

Aside from Helms and Applegate, the acting is nothing to write home about. Cameos from Nick Kroll, Tim Heidecker, Kaitlin Olson and Michael Pena as state cops from the four corners rest stop could have been funny, but no effort is put in from the script whatsoever. Leslie Mann as Audrey (Rusty’s sister) adds absolutely nothing, and her husband, the beefy Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth), is only there for an unfunny dick joke. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Chris Hemsworth is not a strong actor, and he certainly can’t do comedy, as he struggles through a terrible Texan accent. Speaking of dick jokes, the film hits the ultimate low class of comedy as they constantly pepper lazy gross out gags. There’s literally a scene where Rusty grabs a handful of pubic hair from under the bathroom sink. Yup.

Click here to own or rent the original National Lampoon’s Vacation

Aside from the comedy crashing and burning, the film has a low energy that was really stunning. I really don’t want to invoke the original Vacation, but I have to. The build up to Walley World was climactic and hilarious. What they do here is embarrassing. The climax just happens in the most nonchalant way possible. Was nobody passionate about this film?

If there was one bright spot, it was probably Chevy Chase’s cameo. He at least put a smile on my face, but it was also sad to see this once great titan of comedy relegated to this obscure, isolated role. They also completely wasted Beverly D’Angelo. They gave her three or four lines of generic dialogue, and that’s it. Wow. In fact, whenever they try to mimic something from the original Vacation, it’s a trainwreck. Remember that hilarious speech Clark gives when the family wants to turn back? Helms does the same, but looks embarrassed at even attempting it. Again, I don’t blame him.

I really have nothing else to say, and quite honestly, I owe Trainwreck an apology. At least there was an effort, and I did laugh out loud at times. This movie didn’t make me angry, but sad. Comedy is hard. It’s hard to make someone laugh. But when you fail as badly as this movie does, it leaves a real bad taste in your mouth. If your thinking was, “Well, no way this gets close to the original Vacation, but I’m sure it’s better than all those sequels,” think again. It’s awkward, lazy, and just plain uncomfortable. Please. Stay away.

Rating: 3 out of 10 (Really Atrocious)

P.S. These guys are writing the next Spider-Man movie? Yikes.


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Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.
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Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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