“Vacation” Movie Review

    

     For most of the duration of its 99 minute running time, I wanted it to be over.  In what is perhaps the most painful film of 2015 to actually have to sit through (Yes, “Fifty Shades of Grey” would give it a run for its money.), the “Vacation” remake, reboot, reimagining, or whatever they are referring to it as, releases the putrid stench of a truly terrible and needless film.  From the film’s first scene, writing/directing team John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein never manage anything that doesn’t feel forced and completely unnecessary.  The directors, making their feature film debut on the strength of their script for “Horrible Bosses”, are obviously not shy about the use of gutter humor in order to help push a comedic scene to its limits, but the tone of the film is completely off.  I had a similar feeling while watching the franchise’s last outing, 1997’s “Vegas Vacation”, in which everyone on screen seems uncomfortable with their lines and each scene seems like a sketch strung together for the sake of making the film feature length.  It also doesn’t help that the whole thing plays more like a spoof  such as the “Scary Movie” series, rather than an actual comedy that is supposedly grounded within some sort of sick reality.  Add to that each and every word or visual that had any chance of making an audience laugh was already shown in the trailer, meaning a viewing of “Vacation” makes for a lot of straight faces.

     There really isn’t a plot to speak of.  Daley and Goldstein have simply taken the story from the 1983 classic and updated the raunchiness for today’s audiences of whom they must believe have a craving for this sort of thing.  Rusty Griswold (played by Ed Helms as basically Ed Helms) is all grown up and is married with two kids.  His wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), isn’t looking forward to their annual cabin trip at a nearby lake and seems to long for something more.  Their two boys, James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins), are an interesting duo, as the younger Kevin bullies the older James with the kind of cruelty you might think would lead to him someday pursuing the life of a serial killer.  I suppose the filmmakers thought it would be a nice twist to run with throughout the film, especially when the same jokes involving a young blonde in a red sports car and the recurring use of Lindsey Buckingham’s song “Holiday Road” wear out fast.  Problem is, the entire comedic aspect of the banter between the two relies on Kevin’s recurring use of profane and obscene language in a way that implies we should be shocked.  This routine was used in much the same way with Cameron Diaz’s character in “Bad Teacher”, as if we should think it’s funny that an actress like her would get all “R rated” on us.  Seeing a young kid do the same thing and the parents doing nothing about it isn’t exactly funny and could be considered appalling. 

     Rusty thinks he’s saving the day when he rents some Armenian contraption that is meant to be a family vehicle and announces he is recreating the vacation his family took some thirty years ago and taking them to the fictional Walley World in California.  What this does is allow Daley and Goldstein to simply come up with various pit stops and mishaps that are typical of all road movies.  Unfortunately, virtually none of what they present works and literally everything falls flat on its face.  An example of this is a lame sequence in which the Griswolds visit the Grand Canyon and decide to take a river raft tour.  When the tour guide, played by Charlie Day to the over extreme, gets a phone call from his fiancee telling him she is dumping him, we are taken on what turns out to be a suicide mission in which the guide decides to take the Griswolds on a terrifying path towards a massive waterfall that will lead to certain death.  We see everyone involved screaming in slow motion, and of course our first family barely survives, but the guide falls gruesomely to his death.  At that point, I wondered.  Is this supposed to be funny?  Or did the filmmakers include this scene in order to make a point as to how mean spirited and self loathing a Grand Canyon tour guide can be?

     None of the scenes that had any potential seem to last long enough to gain any momentum for what follows.  When the family arrives at the sprawling residence of Rusty’s sister, Audrey (Leslie Mann) and her apparently well endowed husband, Stone (Chris Hemsworth), we are treated to a minor introduction that leads to a short dinner scene, the obvious use of a prosthetic penis that wears out its welcome after being given a bit too much screen time, and an ATV accident.  All together, we get maybe ten minutes of screen time and two characters who don’t figure into the plot at all.  So we simply forget about them and move on to the next lame scene.  One of those scenes, tragically, happens to be a glorified cameo by Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo who are not only wasted in their short appearance, but each is clearly past their respective primes and may not have been capable of much more.  Making matters worse, I think the filmmakers must’ve had a tough time convincing famous actors to appear in this nonsense in several notable cameo roles they had drawn up.  One of which, a truck driver who suspiciously follows the Griswolds throughout the film, begged for an A-list star, but ends up being someone you won’t expect and may not get if you’re not a fan of a certain television show.  There are a number of scenes where a Vince Vaughn or a Ben Stiller might’ve conjured up a few cheap laughs had they appeared, but instead these scenes are populated with actors like Michael Pena or people you won’t recognize at all.  In reality though, can you blame anyone for not wanting to take part in this garbage?

     “Vacation” falls directly in line with the long list of recent films where I would recommend watching the original if you have the itch to do so.  As I’ve said many times, why do we need to have these films remade anyway?  Sure, the classic films they intend to somehow emulate are dated and filled with popular culture of the past rather the hi-tech babble young people are accustomed to today.  But isn’t that why they are referred to as “classic”?  And why insult us with an overly disgusting and crude story only to try and lay on the sentimental ending as if that will somehow have people leaving the theater feeling good about what they have just been forced to endure.  Lets face it, no one can recreate what these characters brought to the three 80’s films (“Vacation”, “European Vacation”, and “Christmas Vacation”) of this franchise and to try and do so is an exercise in futility and just plain bad decision making. GRADE: F