How the Vacation reboot got it wrong as a nostalgic trip…
Rusty jokes and Chris Hemsworth goes to great lengths to make us laugh.
“Vacation” Red Band Trailer, Comedy Central and photos from 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 overhearing 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 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 his 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 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. 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 an actress 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 in this film series. As I also had fond memories of 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 of 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 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 shirtless 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 with 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 to see them after so much time.
In Star Wars, the original characters are added to the story and in some cases, the actors got the ending they wanted for their characters. In Vacation, cameos from the originals were nice to see but a bit like showing a kid his birthday cake then saying he can’t have a slice. Then the kid hopes to get some later but doesn’t get it.
As we didn’t see the characters again in the films, if you needed a loo break you would miss them. So 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.
This was sadly not seen at all in the film as they weren’t on-screen as a couple which we saw with Hans and Leia. This further establishes the plot. Clark and Ellen almost appeared as an afterthought, 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. Additional scenes were set up often reminding you of the scenes from some of their 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 payoff. Sometimes it worked well, but more often not. In addition, many of the adventure setups and payoffs 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: 0 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: /10
Hulk Rating: /10
The Hotter’Nell Blogathon 2019 No 34
This post was added to Movie Movie Blog Blog II‘s Hotter’nell Blogathon. It also features a film I love to hate HERE. Other reviews with this cast include Chevy Chase and Beverley D’Angelo in National Lampoon’s European Vacation. Chris Hemsworth stars in Best Actor Oscar Winners in Superhero Films, Thor Ragnarok and my list of Hotties here. Elizabeth Gillies stars in the Dynasty reboot reviewed HERE.