Reboot? Remake? Rehash? Nostalgic trip down movie memory lane? Call it what you will, there’s no denying that Vacation, the latest film in the National Lampoon’s Vacation movie series, is eager to remind us that it isn’t just a brand spanking new comedy, but in actuality part of an established series of much-loved films from the 80’s and 90’s.
Ed Helms takes the lead as Rusty Griswold, the son from the original film, now grown up and eager to take his family on the same cross-country road trip to Walley World he was subjected to in his youth. From then on, the family find themselves in all manner of awkward and embarrassing situations, as Rusty’s attempts to bond with them lead to all sorts of trouble. Pretty much in the same way as the original film!
The sense of nostalgic whoring is pretty much on display from the get-go, from the use of the iconic song ‘Holiday Road’ from the original 1983 film, to a funny yet unsubtle fourth wall breaking discussion about the ‘original Vacation’. There’s repeated jokes from the 80’s film (the most iconic being the attractive lady in the Ferrari), cameos, and pretty much little to no original plot ideas to be had. Sure the humour is darker, more un-PC and more gross, but ultimately the writers/directors are certainly eager to cash-in on the nostalgic elements!
The real question though is whether the film is funny, nostalgic or not? The answer is yes, but it certainly takes a long time to kick into top gear. There’s some chuckles to be elicited early on, but ultimately the four main characters and their comedic foibles fail to remain as funny over the course of the film. It falls to the cameos and additional cast-members to provide the bigger laughs, from Chris Hemsworth’s cringe-inducing cameo to Charlie Day’s hilarious appearance as a Grand Canyon River Rafter, which provides the biggest highlight of the film. There’s a couple of additional cameos best kept secret for the sake of laughs as well. However, like most recent american comedies, it does often feel like the film is working from a check-list of required elements to make a modern US comedy, as opposed to trying out anything really new or original.
Ultimately, regardless of the amount of nostalgic elements put on-screen, the film will stand or fall based on its gag rate. With such a slow start, an over-reliance on repeated jokes, and a lack of heart or genuine pathos for the most part of its running time, Vacation does at times drag, but occasionally rewards with some solid laughs.
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