Let it never be said that I’m too highfalutin to laugh at a good poop joke. The problem with Vacation is that to get to the good ones, you also have to go swimming through all the bad. Literally. As in there is literally a scene in this movie which features a family swimming in poop.
And the sloppy torrent of bodily-fluid based gags doesn’t stop there in this 30-years later sequel/spiritual remake to Harold Ramis and John Hughes’ comedy classic National Lampoon’s Vacation which originally saw Chevy Chase’s buffoonish Clark Griswold leading his family on a calamitous cross-country road trip to the Wally World amusement park.
In this R-rated modern incarnation we’re following Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms), Clark’s now grown-up son who now has a family of his own consisting of his distant out-of-his-league wife Debbie (Christina Applegate), his shy and sensitive oldest son James (Skyler Gisondo) and his foul-mouthed mean-spirited youngest son Kevin (Steele Stebbins) whose favourite pastime is
attempting to violently murder bullying his socially awkward older brother.
To bring his family closer together, Rusty decides to pack them all into the undeniably worst rental car Eastern Europe can almost-produce, and reattempt his father’s ill-fated crossing of America to Wally World to ride the world-famous Velociraptor roller coaster.
Cue everything that could possibly go wrong going wrong in the most ridiculous manner allowed by the laws of physics and logic – and sometimes, not even those. In fact, except for a thinly veneered on overarching plot about Rusty and Debbie trying to rekinde their flagging marriage, the plot here really just serves as a convenient series of scene changes to allow co-writers/directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein to stage ever-increasingly ludicrous sight gags. There’s the aforementioned dip in human sewerage, a brush with a suicidal river raft guide played by Charlie Day, being hunted down by a “rapist” truck driver, James’ attempts to befriend a cute girl awkwardly sabotaged by his family, a frisky night time sex romp on the Four Corners monument and much more absurdity.
And sandwiched in the middle of all of these is a stopover on a steer ranch owned by Rusty’s sister, Audrey (Leslie Mann), and her seemingly perfect husband, Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth). And it’s the latter who threatens to the steal the entire movie by using his prodigious physical gifts to aid some fantastic comic timing. One scene that is certain to elicit some heavy snort-laughter has the Thor star swinging his mighty… hammer to hilariously memorable effect.
And then next thing you know we’re shoulders deep in cow entrails again. And that’s really the story of this movie. This new Vacation is most definitely not without some serious laugh-out-loud merit, mostly sold through the antics of its very game cast, but by the gods if there’s even the faintest, most ephemeral whiff of a chance for a low-brow gross-out joke to be made, Daley and Goldstein are sure as hell going to make it.
Which is a pity as they often focus so much on the low hanging
fruit dingleberries, that they sell their cast short, or even worse, leave other running jokes to just completely fizzle out with zero payoff – including a an early hint of self-awareness that works well, but is then abandoned for no reason. And despite the third act appearance of original franchise stars Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, it definitely doesn’t have the heart and charm of Ramis and Hughes’ classic screwball films, even though it certainly borrows enough of its tropes.
It’s arguably unnecessary and always very crass, but with that being said, if you’re willing to switch off both your brain and your gag reflex, there is still a (relatively) fun time to be had. Just watch your step, as you might tread through some excrement on the way in.
Last Updated: September 11, 2015