“Vacation” is a reboot of the original National Lampoon’s series, but it’s not dedicated to reminding fans that it stems from a once beloved series. There are your typical nods, but through and through the new film is its own animal that strives for its own brand of sleazy comedy, and for that I respect it. It acts as a sequel, and virtual restart, while also allowing a platform for fans to go out and check out the original Chevy Chase films for some frame of reference. It’s not mandatory, however. I also enjoyed “Vacation” much more than I thought I would, speaking as someone who went in to it with rock bottom expectations; even if it tends to be something of a mixed bag right until the very end.
“Vacation” is centered on the unlucky Griswold clan’s son Rusty. Ed Helms is affable and memorable as the good natured and well intentioned Rusty, who is now a pilot for a regional airport that isn’t glamorous but gives him fulfillment. Like his dad, he’s now a husband to a charming wife, and dad to two sons, both of whom are about as off the wall and eccentric as any character bred from the National Lampoon stable. When Rusty is subjected to an awkward display of how close and bonded his neighbors and friends are with their own children, he decides to rip a page from his history and take a road trip to his beloved vacation spot: Walley World.
Ed Helms does a bang up job of carrying the torch from Chevy Chase, offering a new kind of middle class everyday man mold whose best intentions always transform in to the weirdest and raucous misadventures. Directors John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein manage to get the most out of Helms’ casting, relying on his ace comic timing and ability to invoke the same double takes and wide eyed disbelief that Chase conveyed in the original “Vacation.” There’s also a very strong turn from Christina Applegate who works hard to support Rusty, but finds herself at a crossroads in their marriage when Rusty is devoted to a steady routine that is keeping the married couple in a rut. When “Vacation” hits, it lands some solid laughs.
For every misplaced scene involving a popular tourist location that ends up being a scene for deviants, there’s a memorable trip to a sewage pond. For every somewhat forced walk on role by Charlie Day, there’s a surprisingly funny turn from Chris Hemsworth (who plays Rusty’s sister Audrey’s (Leslie Mann) somewhat perfect husband). Through the trotting of cameos and walk ons, “Vacation” takes the time out to plug itself in to the National Lampoon series, opting for references to the previous movies in the series that feel organic and beneficial to the story. There is even the admirably liberal use of the original theme song. “Vacation” is by no means a masterpiece, but it’s definitely a solid comedy effort worth viewing by fans of the original “Vacation” films. I’d certainly like to see how the new Griswold clan develops in a sequel.
Featured on the Blu-Ray is “Return to Walley World,” a nine minute look at how the producers and writers continued the franchises, and the challenges faced rebooting the series. “The Griswold Odyssey” is an eighteen minute look at the making of the film, and how they designed the Tartan Prancer Minivan. There’s a one minute gag reel, twelve minutes of deleted scenes, and finally a two minute tribute to Georgia, which acted as a double for other states.