Directors: John Francis Daley & Jonathan M. Goldstein
Starring: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate & Chris Hemsworth
Synopsis: Rusty Griswold takes his own family on a road trip to Walley World in order to spice things up with his wife and reconnect with his sons.
Rating: 15 Run time: 99 minutes Release date: 14 Decemeber (UK)
Somewhere during my childhood I managed to miss the original Vacation films. A quick Google search reveals that there are now five films in the series, and the only one I can recall is Christmas Vacation, which I’m sure I enjoyed but I really can’t remember all that well. Therefore the idea of rebooting the series stirs little emotion in me, but I’m happy to say that this new entry in the series is a lot better than expected, and is never less than genuinely funny.
Now grown-up, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) is a pilot for a budget airline and has a wife (Christina Applegate) and two sons (Skyler Gisondo & Steele Stebbins). Despite Rusty having everything he ever wanted from life, a nice home & a loving family, it is clear that family relations are a little strained. Sensing an opportunity, Rusty vows to bring his family back together and take them on a trip they will never forget, to the legendary Walley World.
This, of course, is the same Walley World theme park that Rusty and his family visited in 1983. Rusty is desperate for the trip to go well and hopes to rekindle the sense of fun that he had when he made the trip as a child.
You don’t need to be particularly clever to realise that it won’t be long before things start to go wrong, and the Griswolds are finding themselves in various scrapes and scenarios that only they could. Along the way, they stop off at several locations, which all serve to bring out certain revelations and force the family into some truly bizarre scenarios.
Stopping off in Memphis reveals that the otherwise laid back Debbie (Applegate) was once a notorious party girl, who would literally do anything. While a brief stay in Texas to visit Rusty’s sister (Leslie Mann) is nothing more than an excuse to have Chris Hemsworth show his funny side. One suspects a lot may have been made about Hemsworth’s performance as a good looking Southern boy done good, and while it was far from a revelation, it is nice to see Hemsworth try his hand at something more light-hearted.
The places the Griswold’s visit are nothing more than excuses to fire more jokes at the audience, more often than not though, they do hit the mark and result in a film that is consistent from beginning to end. Two stand-out set pieces come in the form of a Police stand-off at the Four Corners Monument, as well as a family rafting trip through the Grand Canyon with a delightfully psychotic Charlie Day as their lead are highlights.
The Griswold’s themselves are a likeable bunch. Ed Helms plays the loveable doofus more knowingly now than when he did in The Hangover, and manages to convey a sense of sympathy for a man that just wants to be loved by his family in an otherwise two-dimensional role. Christina Applegate is by now, no stranger to comedy and is able to turn her straight-faced mother into a drunken party girl at the drop of a hat. Credit must go to Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins as the warring Griswold brothers. Their antics are some of the best parts of the film, with their constant bickering and Steele’s penchant for suffocating his brother with a plastic bag being a sinister delight.
There are moments when Vacation stutters though. The start feels slow and lumbers around waiting for the family to begin their trip, and it ends up taking a while to get into full swing. There’s also a lull toward the end of the film, when the Griswold’s have to take an unplanned rest stop which kills its momentum in favour of family bonding and some marital make-up.
The ending makes up for these missteps though and provides a pay-off that not all comedies can manage. It may not be perfect, and anyone stuck inside an 80’s bubble of nostalgia will likely detest its very existence, but Vacation remains a very funny film and one that should be viewed without pre-conceptions.
The extras on the Vacation Blu-ray are a pretty light bunch and are little more than promotional material for the film.
Return to Walley World takes a look at the making of the film and features the cast & directors talking about their experiences making the film. It’s a light and fluffy behind the scenes look, and consists of the actors talking about their own family holidays and their love for the orginal series of Vacation films.
The Griswold Odyssey carries on the tone set in Return to Walley World and features more behind the scenes footage mixed with scenes from the film as cast and crew discuss what went into making the film, the buidling of Tri-Pi obstacle course and taking the Griswold’s across America.
A gag reel and deleted scenes complete the disc and are the usual mix of wisely edited scenes and playful banter that add little to the disc.