This isn’t a movie for the faint of heart.
Based on the 1983 comedy National Lampoon’s Vacation, Vacation revolves around a family’s cross-country road trip and the ensuing adventures. It has all the makings of a good comedy on paper- a dysfunctional family, an estranged couple and a forced family vacation- but it doesn’t quite live up to the promise. Jonathan Goldstein’s and John Francis Daley’s attempt to stir up nostalgia for National Lampoon’s Vacation fans ends on a bittersweet note, as it never becomes the laugh riot that the original was.
Rusty Griswold, played by Ed Helms, is an embittered pilot who works for a discount commuter airline. His wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), and he have fallen out of love. Their two sons are polar opposites- James, the elder one, is an awkward, freckly and reticent teenager, and Kevin, the younger one, is a smart-mouth who is always eager to mess with his brother. Rusty decides to relive his childhood by shelving their annual vacation, and planning a cross-country road trip to Walley World instead.
In the course of this trip, accidents happen and secrets are revealed. There are many dubiously funny moments like when they jump into a spring and christen it Griswold Spring, and it turns out to be a dump for raw sewage. And when Debbie covered in “human excreta” glares at him, Rusty says “Oh come on, sweetheart! We don’t know that’s human.” Or when he sings Kiss from a Rose in their “Honda of Albania” rental car.
Forty minutes into the film, the audience becomes aware of a comic void as the plot gets monotonous and dreary with unfunny jokes and misplaced sexual innuendos. However, there are some genuine moments of humor, like when the family goes rafting and their guide turns out to be crazy, and when they are chased down by a truck driver who Kevin insults. Applegate and Helms, seasoned comic actors deliver their lines well. Applegate effortlessly essays the role of a disinterested wife with a racy past. Chris Hemsworth is a treat as the adulterous hunk of a brother-in-law, and Leslie Mann is delightful as Audrey Griswold-Crandall, Rusty’s sister.
The film progresses to a predictable and drab climax. It falls short in many departments, and has several flat moments. Even though the actors do a good job, the plot lacks novelty and the film lacks an engaging screenplay. The cinematography deserves a mention, for it is actually a treat to see the allure of the various states from Memphis to Arkansas, to Arizona and finally, Chicago. All in all, it’s an okay film which could have done with a funnier screenplay.
Why you should watch this film:
Christina Applegate is a delight to watch on screen and Ed Helms tries to do justice to his character, and to some extent, succeeds. Chris Hemsworth adds volumes to the visual appeal of the film. If only, he’d even brought laughs!