Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) and his family are about to go on their annual vacation. He plans to take them to the same cabin they’ve gone to for the past 10 years. His wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), longs for a new, exciting destination, but goes along with the idea. After looking through photos of his childhood vacations, he decides that a cross-country road trip might be what his family needs. There is only one destination he could possibly choose. Walley World. The road trip will be something different for his wife. And the time together in the car may just help his two sons, James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) finally get along.
Along the way, they stop at Audrey’s (Leslie Mann) house to have dinner with her and her hot husband, Stone (Chris Hemsworth). After an eventful visit, one where Stone seems intent on showing off his huge six-pack, the Griswolds get back on the road.
But, seeing as how this is a Griswold vacation, things don’t exactly go as planned. A visit to Debbie’s old sorority gone awry. A white water rafting misadventure. A run in with a trucker. Problems with their rental car. You name it, it goes wrong. Rusty and Debbie decide that maybe this vacation wasn’t the right choice to get the spark back in their marriage and bring the family together.
I wanted to love Vacation. I wanted to love it so much. From the first trailer, I was excited. Could they possibly bring back the Griswold magic?
The latest in a long string of Vacation movies featuring the Griswolds, there is so much potential. Potential for it to be great. Potential for it to be a disaster. It could easily go either way.
Ed Helms is great as Rusty. I love his sense of humor and his timing is just about perfect. He is funny in just about everything he does. Pair him with Christina Applegate, another great comedic actor. With these two as the leads, you’re setting yourself up for greatness. Skyler Gisondo is the awkward older brother, constantly tormented by his foul-mouthed younger brother, played by Steele Stebbins. These two have good chemistry in this movie. However, Kevin’s torturing starts to feel a little repetitive. Especially if you’ve watched any of the trailers.
The supporting cast is full of big names in comedy: Leslie Mann, Charlie Day, Michael Peña, and Keegan-Michael Key (who has been in every single movie released this year), among others. For nostalgia’s sake, Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo even make an appearance in the film. (I’ll admit, I may have shed a tear when Chevy opened the garage door and “Holiday Road” started playing as Rusty and his family hit the road again.)
The story feels familiar enough to be a fitting sequel to the Vacation series. It is self-aware enough to throw jabs at its predecessors, and even itself. Yet, it feels new enough to not be a remake or reboot. And now, sadly, I have to switch gears. There are times where the film as a whole falls apart a little. Some of the gags run a little long. (Kevin’s berating of James, as I mentioned above.) Some seem a bit out-of-place. Some resolve themselves too quickly. Some are just too out-there. Perhaps my biggest complaint is that the trailers give away most of the funny parts. If you’ve watched any of them, let alone more than just one, you have seen the best bits in the movie. This is something that a lot of movies have fallen victim to. It’s a feeling of déjà vu as you watch them play out again on the big screen. Why do movies do this? Give us enough to whet our appetite, and then let us experience it as it happens.
Vacation may not be what it could have been, but it hit a special chord with me. Having just returned from a cross-country road trip with my own family, I saw a bit of myself in the movie. From trapping the kids in the car for countless hours, to family singalongs, to the side trips that take you hours out of the way to visit, say, the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, I came to a realization. I am Rusty. Minus the bumbling cluelessness, of course.
While the latest Vacation doesn’t quite live up to expectations, I still enjoyed it. There are plenty of laughs. Just enough of an homage to its roots. And just enough of myself in it to make it worth seeing.