Main Features No 39
Vacation … A Nostalgic Trip?
In Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) writers showed successfully how you can pass the baton – or in this case lightsabre – to a new generation, however I feel Vacation tried to do this but failed. Here’s why…
Vacation – Official Theatrical Trailer [HD], Warner Bros. Pictures, http://www.youtube.com and pictures © Warner Bros. Pictures
Under the spotlight today is Vacation (2015), which continues the Griswold family holiday adventures from the 1980s original movies including the original Vacation (1983) and National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985). This time the story centres on Rusty (Ed Helms) and his family. Rusty is the grown up son of Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen Griswold (Beverley D’Angelo) and he was just a kid in the original movie alongside his sister Audrey. In the first Vacation film, Clark decided to take his family on a road trip to Walley World, an idea which Rusty is keen to replicate – in this new film – after over hearing his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate) say she wishes she could go somewhere different from the yearly traditional cabin based family holiday. So the Griswolds and their two sons, sensitive James and annoying wee brother Kevin set off on a road trip to Walley World. On the way there they have a wide variety of comic (leading to not so comic) adventures.
I hoped on learning this film was a continuation of the franchise that it would be similar to the Star Wars Force Awakens (2015) in that there would be a nice handover from the original cast to the new cast, a great storyline and an engaging story. Sadly it wasn’t as good as I hoped. Where The Force Awakens got it right by making likeable new characters and bringing in the old ones to reinforce the plot and intricacies of the storyline, this one tried and failed. En route to Walley World, Rusty and family stop off to visit his sister, Audrey who has married a Texan toyboy, Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth). Leslie Mann who played Audrey was sadly underused and merely drifts in says a couple of lines and drifts out again in what could only be described as a cameo role. But luckily, in her less than 5 minutes on-screen, Mann gets a dream cameo for many with her screen husband to make up for it. So who can blame her? (More of this particular role of course can be read HERE). It would have been nice to get some reminiscence chatter between Audrey and her screen brother to reestablish the characters more and also as a nice wee reminder of the previous Vacation film series for followers of the franchise. I for one loved Audrey as played by Dana Hill in National Lampoon’s European Vacation as it was nice to have a female character of around my age in this film then as could empathise with her character more through a joint experience of eventful family holidays. It was also sad to see that Rusty does not appear to have any nieces or nephews as this film series as I also had fond memories when the story introduced us to some of the (even) more eccentric Griswold family members.
However, despite the story concentrating on Rusty, it is his brother-in-law that steals the show. In contrast to Audrey, we have the luxury time with this new family member, Stone Crandall who is Rusty’s sister Audrey’s husband and is played by a scene stealing Chris Hemsworth. Hemsworth shows us he is a natural comic actor. Hopefully this humorous turn will inspire to the Marvel company to make more comic interactions for his role as Thor alongside his screen brother Loki as he often appears too straight and humourless in this role. Hemsworth took over the screen with an over the top Texan accent – on par with Dennis Quaid in Great Balls of Fire (1989), who in turn appeared to take inspiration from Deputy Dawg – so perhaps Hemsworth was given lessons by Matthew McConaughey. Anyway he also takes over the screen as he flirts with Debbie in a scene where he appears topless and – steady girls – appears more than a bit overendowed. This scene was probably one that was the most publicised and most amusing. It ideally should have stopped with the Helms’s punchline, but if you look at the credits, Chris’s hems worth a look (pun intended, sorry if a bit below the belt).
Anyway, so the film continues to a few more predictable adventures and an all too brief appearance by ma and pa Griswold played by…the original ma and pa Griswold, Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. Again, it would have been nice to spend some proper time with these familiar actors, as we did in Star Wars with those playing Chewie, Leia and Solo as it was fun and a gentle reminder of the film series as to see them after so much time. In Star Wars, the original characters added to the story and in some cases the actors got the ending they wanted for their characters..(if you want to read more about this CLICK HERE for my Star Wars spoiler review). In Vacation, cameos from the originals was nice to see but a bit like showing a kid his birthday cake then saying he can’t have a slice, and the kid hopes to get some later. But doesn’t. As we didn’t see the characters again in the films, if you needed a loo break you would miss them and you wouldn’t even have known they’d been there. In real life, Chevy Chase as Clark still has a fine rapport with screen wife Beverley D’Angelo in the interviews preceding this release and this sadly was not seen at all in the film as they weren’t on-screen as a couple which we saw with Hans and Leia to further establish the plot. Clark and Ellen almost appeared as an after thought, possibly hastily written in due to the success of the Star Wars film bringing in Fisher, Ford and Hamill. Chase’s role was badly written, and D’Angelo could have been replaced with a mop as she hid behind her hair and was filmed from bad angles.
The film felt more than wasted with such a fine cast, and I would have quite happily missed out on a few of the less comic adventures to see more of the Griswold family especially Audrey. In addition scenes were set up often reminding you of the scenes from some of their the previous film, similar to the in-jokes references in Star Wars. However after delivering a funny line or in-joke Vacation would then further embellish it – usually involving body fluids – which went too far and detracted from the funny moment which in turn spoilt its original comedy pay off. Sometimes it worked well, but more often not. In addition many of the adventures set ups and pay offs had been outlined in the numerous trailers. So as for taking a nostalgic trip, I will be taking one such trip but to the DVD shop to pick up the original..
Weeper Rating: /10
Handsqueeze Rating: /10
Hulk Rating: /10
Bonus Trailer: Yes, R Trailer