I’ve spent the last week leading up to today’s release of the new Vacation reading critics’ reviews. Most have been less than kind, suggesting the new iteration tries too hard and fails to live up to the greatness that was the 1983 original.
Sure, the original was written by John Hughes and directed by Harold Ramis, a combination hard to beat. Throw in Chevy Chase at his best, an amazing supporting cast, a dead Aunt, dog pee-saturated sandwiches, and quality incest jokes, and it really was a magic comedic brew. Does that mean that it occupies a sacrosanct place in our film culture and shouldn’t or couldn’t ever be replicated successfully? Technically the 2015 Vacation is a continuation of the story and not a re-make. We follow the now 40-something Rusty and his family on their vacation to Walley World, Griswold-style. Early in the film, the family refers to Rusty’s trip to Walley World as a kid, and they have a wink-at-the-audience dialogue about how this new ‘vacation’ (see what they did there?) will be new and different and stand as a vacation in its own right. I have watched so many of my favorite 80s movies and TV shows re-imagined in the last ten years that it’s hard to keep up. In most cases, the new versions fail to excite or interest. Not so with this new chapter in the Griswold legacy.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, laughed out loud throughout, and thought it was beautifully cast. It manages to balance elements from the original (Lindsey Buckingham’s ‘Holiday Road’, the family truckster, a red Ferrari/hot girl flirtation scene, a verbal tirade when the going gets tough, and of course Walley World) with a new story and new characters (Chris Hemsworth, I’m looking at you – man am I ever looking at you) in a way that was well executed and a ton of fun. Ed Helms and Christina Applegate are perfect as Rusty and Debbie Griswold. Their sons are funny and have an interesting, if somewhat reversed, dynamic. The weakest part for me was, ironically, the short stop they make at their parents’ house where we get a few minutes of time with Grandpa Clark and Grandma Ellen. That whole section of the movie (which was happily short) just wasn’t funny. It left you feeling just a little sorry for Chevy Chase somehow. Even so, the movie offers up plenty of language, physical humor, quirky characters, road rage, throw up, and Seal to satisfy even the pickiest of purists.
You will not regret this latest adventure with the Griswolds. We give it two enthusiastic thumbs up, like totally.