I want to go home
Vacation is directed by Johnathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (in their directorial debuts) and stars Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Leslie Mann, Chris Hemsworth, and Chevy Chase.
Poor Ed Helms. I fear the man has been typecasted as the awkward, can't-catch-a-break, lovable idiot that is Andy Bernard from The Office. If you don't believe me when I say that he plays the exact same type of character in The Hangover, then I'm going to scream it at your face that he is also the exact same type of character in Vacation. It's not like all of the stars from The Office have gone on to only find themselves restricted to the cinematic world of comedy. John Krasinski starred in Michael Bay's 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, which is anything but a comedy. As for Ed Helms, however, his recent track record would highly suggest that the man is perfectly comfortable with starring in raunchy, R-rated comedies that disgust the majority of critics, yet still find a way to get it done in ticket sales.
Vacation is a comedy (though I use the term very loosely) whose sole ambition is to cash in on the long-running nostalgia of fans of the Griswold family vacation mishaps, and attempting to do so without the heart, ambition, or wit of all the original Vacation classics. It settles for the laziest jokes and some other of the lowest forms of comedy dreck, all of which amounts to 99 minutes of hot garbage. There is not a single good laugh to be had, and I felt strangely uncomfortable watching it the entire way, as if my eyes were begging me to stop subjecting them to such cruel torment.
The Griswold family member at center helm this time is the now adult Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms). Rusty is a pilot working at the low-budget airline Econo-Air, and his marriage to his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) has become rather lethargic as of late. The couple have two sons: James (Skyler Gisondo), their awkward and shy 14 year-old, and 12 year-old Kevin (Steele Stebbins), who prefers to spend his time endlessly picking on James. The family take annual vacation trips to a cabin in Cheboygan, Michigan, a trip that only Rusty enjoys. The Griswolds invite their friends, Jack (Keegan-Michael Key) and Nancy (Regina Hall) over for dinner one night, and Rusty overhears a conversation between Debbie and Nancy about how much Debbie and the boys hate the cabin trip to Michigan. As a result, Rusty decides to take his family on a vacation trip to Walley World, the California theme park that Rusty enjoyed going to on family trips years before. Rusty rents an overly complicated Tartan Prancer for the trip, and, in typical Griswold fashion, everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
- The only likable character in this entire film is Debbie, who is by far the least idiotic. That doesn't mean she does nothing stupid at all in the film. There's a scene where the family stops and visit Debbie's old college sorority, where it is revealed that Debbie was a hardcore party freak who invented a fundraiser in which someone must traverse a miniature obstacle course while intoxicated. Debbie, spurred on by being called old from some of the condescending sorority girls, decides to try and get through the obstacle course, only to vomit everywhere and fall down several times after first chugging an entire pitcher of beer. Vacation has a bizarre fondness for vomit and poop, but none of which is funny. You knew that already, though. Anyway, Debbie tries to be the one truly sane person amidst all of the unfortunate happenings that befall the Griswold family, making her mostly tolerable. In a film like this one, that's a sight for sore eyes.
- It'd be too vague of me to just tell you that the humor is the lowest of the low points. The question is, "Why is Vacation not funny?" And my answer is that Vacation's humor, when not trying to be disgusting or mean-spirited, primarily relies on being as unbearably awkward as possible. It's not awkward in the sense that someone says something kind of dumb and causes themselves mild embarrassment. It's awkward in the sense that someone says something that makes absolutely no sense at all in the context of the current conversation, leaving not only the character and those around them in an awkward predicament, but us as an audience in an awkward predicament too because of the complete confusion we are feeling as we have no idea if we should laugh or not at what was just said. Example: the family makes a stop in Texas to meet up with Rusty's sister, Audrey (Leslie Mann), and her husband, Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth). Rusty and Stone ride quad bikes one morning to round up cattle, but Rusty accidentally runs into a cow and blows it to bits. On their next drive later that day, everyone in the car begins to make cow puns, until Kevin contributes to the conversation by saying right out of the blue, "James is a piece of shit!" The line makes no sense following up on some lame cow puns and does nothing except pointlessly reinforce the fact that Kevin is a jerk to his older brother. Awkward predicaments can be funny....when set up and executed properly.
- Aside from the awkwardness, the set ups of the "humorous" scenes are nothing short of awful. You basically know exactly what is going to happen well before it actually happens. There is no limit to the number of times you can watch Rusty and his family have things seemingly going their way, only to tell yourself, "This bad thing is going to happen" with that bad thing happening moments later. In one scene, Rusty is showing off the Tartan Prancer to his family right before they hit the road. Rusty asks Debbie to shut the front door on his arm, claiming there is a sensor that will prevent the door from shutting on somebody's arm. You're more than likely to say to yourself, "The sensor isn't going to work, is it?" and, sure enough, the sensor doesn't work. Oh, but after Debbie shuts the door once on Rusty's arm, he realizes that he forgot to turn on the sensor. He then asks Debbie to shut the door on his arm again. Same result as before? Same result as before. And that's just one excruciating scene. There's plenty more to follow.
A vacation is meant to be a get-away from work and other hassles of life. But if there's anything you should try to get away from, it's the awkward, unfunny, and charmless wreck that is Vacation. The tagline "What could go wrong?" is highly appropriate, because just about everything does go wrong with Vacation. The story is borrowed from earlier Vacation films, and all of the comedy is horrendously set up, being either too awkward, too disgusting, or too mean spirited to potentially be funny. I do hope that one day Ed Helms decides to move on from this kind of trashy stuff, because he is better than this.
Recommend? No. The early Vacation movies are a better use of your time.
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