Vacation – another discombobulated assortment of immaturity, nostalgic pandering and weightless storytelling. The slow death of mainstream comedy, if you will. Every stupid graffitied phallus and perverse lake of shit is calculated with the cheapest of intentions, because juvenile potty humor seems to have become an underwhelming norm across comedy’s repetitive landscape. John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein promise early on that their unwarranted reboot will stand completely on its own (through yet ANOTHER meta-laced conversation), but their efforts are less convincing than Randy Quaid’s fake sex tape. Why? Because NO Vacation movie has treated its audience with this little respect. And Vegas Vacation is nothing to brag about, I might add.
In this year’s vacation-from-hell comedy, Rusty Griswold has transformed from a tall, lanky nutcase (played most recently by Ethan Embry) to his All-American-Joe fate as an economy airline pilot (played now by Ed Helms). He’s the same lovable oaf, now with a family of his own and the same Griswold spirit. But when Rusty’s wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) shows signs of becoming bored with the same yearly cabin retreat, it becomes apparent that this year’s vacation has to be something special. Digging from his past, Rusty decides that only one magical location can bring his distant family together – Walley World! If it worked once, why not travel down the same path a second time?
Vacation says more about the current state of Hollywood comedies than it does about reboots and unnecessary sequels, and it’s a sad realization. For every Trainwreck, we get at least 10 interchangeable Vacations, Hot Tub Time Machine 2s, or Unfinished Businesses – an endless cycle of comedic futility. Everything I despised about these empty chucklefests rears its ugly head once again here, proving that a constricting repetition will always remain constant as writers simply dredge shit-filled lakes when digging for a laugh. There’s nothing smart, witty, worthwhile or engaging about Vacation; a brutish slog that lazily relies on vulgarity that wouldn’t even make a pre-schooler smirk. Why are audiences condemned to a cinematic hell where hearing Ed Helms repeat the word “vagina” for the hundredth time equates to serviceable comedy?
Sadly, that’s all Vacation is. Daley and Goldstein (the men scripting Spider-Man’s newest reboot) execute punchy set-ups with only reproductive organs on the mind, as every joke seemingly leads to sex. Be it a Four-Corners orgy, familial rimjobs, or Chris Hemsworth’s gargantuan prosthetic cock (he’s too perfect already, I refuse to believe it’s real), every forced notion of perversion makes it seem like Vacation can’t be “funny” unless it’s being crass and crude. Unfortunately, this low-stakes avalanche of smut doesn’t supplement such “wild” laughs with more intelligent, ambitious comedy that comes from a genuine place, and for that, there is no reward. I mean, it’d be like watching a porno that has no connecting story – where’s the substance?!
Yet, somehow, despite all odds, there are a few obscure jokes that do land, none of which have much to do with the Griswold family themselves. The likes of Nick Kroll, Tim Heidecker, Kaitlin Olson, and Michael Peña appear as cops who square off at The Four Corners Monument in one of the film’s only converted comedic opportunities, signifying a short burst of belly-laughs that are more a tease of what could have been. But other names like Keegan-Michael Key, Charlie Day, and Norman Reedus come and go without much impact, and never make their presence worthwhile despite their now signature looks. Plus, Vacation wouldn’t be complete without a Griswold cameo from Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo – just another cash-in attempt that gives Chase the opportunity to act like a bumbling buffoon while scoring points with older fans. The art of directing a reboot is hard, ain’t it?
Everything about Vacation is a one-dimensional sham, and that’s its biggest problem. I don’t buy into the whole “but it’s just for laughs, bro!” mentality that gives passes to completely vapid comedies. We’re allowed to ask for characters who are more than bored housewives (Applegate), goofball fathers (Helms), nerdy teens (Skyler Gisondo), and foul-mouthed youngens (Steele Stebbins). We don’t want to grow tired of long-dicked weathermen who love feeding beef to cows (Chris Hemsworth) and their bored wives (Leslie Mann). But, as it exists, there’s absolutely nothing to be learned from Vacation, apart from a suggestion that all truckers are pedophiles who look like Norman Reedus. No sincere bonds of family growth, no honest confessions from unhappy couples putting on a lavish facade – just wang jokes and fecal facials.
Actually, there’s one piece of advice that ends up being true. When asked about crappy family vacations, Rusty’s father informs him that the journey is always shit, but it makes you appreciate the destination. Yup, no argument there! The absolute shamelessness of Vacation‘s bottom-of-the-barrel joke-scraping truly made me appreciate seeing the credits roll, bringing an end to this regrettable getaway.
*Starts humming to himself* “Va-cation, all I never wanted. Va-cation, wished I got away!”
How horridly unsurprising. Another soulless comedy obsessed with poop, puke, and another p-word I'll refrain from using (because I'm still not sure how to pluralize it).