Relying often on crass, gross out humour, Vacation tries to hide the fact it actually has some very funny jokes. Based on the long running National Lampoon’s Vacation film series, the family’s father, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) tells his family his plan to travel 2,500 across the country to visit the fictional theme park Walley World, retreading a holiday he went on with his family in the 1983 original. “But I’ve never heard of the original Vacation,” complains the younger son Kevin (Steele Stebbins). “It doesn’t matter, the new Vacation will stand up on its own,” replies Rusty. Thankfully the rest of the film steers clear of such ‘clever’ meta and unnecessary screenwriting because on the whole, no knowledge of the original is necessary to enjoy some really funny moments and holiday mishaps.
Much of the humour derives from Rusty’s new Albanian car with its hopeless, volatile gadgets. Helms is in his comfort zone, playing a similarly naive and hardworking character put down by others but never afraid to show off a falsetto. He is so often an amusing and amiable screen presence even when he’s in underwhelming films. He plays a commercial airline pilot, a nice subversive character detail which makes him superficially quite cool, but quite clearly not. A small role from Chris Hemsworth does well to steal the limelight and make every male viewer feel suitably inadequate. For every bad, crude joke, including some cow cannibalism, there’s a good gag such as Charlie Day playing the family’s suicidal river rapids instructor or a recurring joke involving the foul mouthed little brother picking on his arty, romantic older sibling.
Vacation is by no means perfect or earth shattering and falling into many cheap pitfalls that litter so many of the worst mainstream comedies, Vacation at least has plenty of good along with the bad.
Review by David Rank
Vacation is out now in the UK and the US. Rating 15 (UK). Running time 99 mins.