Starring: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann
Written and Directed by: Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley
Cert: 15A Running Time: 97 minutes
Part remake, part sequel to the 80’s National Lampoon’s Vacation series, this outing comes to our screens with one simple goal – to make you laugh. It demands no more of you than to sit comfortably in your seat, munch your popcorn and try not to choke on it as you chuckle your way through its rolling barrel of gags.
The film opens with Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms), now grown up with a family of his own, stuck in a rut as a regional pilot with Econoair and his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) feeling their marriage is stuck too. Deciding the family needs an adventure just like the one he had with his folks, they embark on the 2,400 mile car journey to California’s Walley World theme park with their two sons. Enduring a whole host of set backs and off-road adventures in their Tartan Prancer, a specialist ‘green’ car all the way from Albania, the film works as a standalone adventure of its own, spitting out gags every few miles as they endure any number of perilous encounters on their trip across the States.
Helms and Applegate together make a great team. He re-invigorates his moron Hangover shtick to good effect complimenting Applegate’s great comic timing and together with Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins as their sons James and Kevin, they really manage to pull it off. The boys, particularly Stebbins, as a problem child with psychopathic tendencies towards his older brother, is terrific. A scene where he tries to smother him with a plastic bag is hilarious.
Written and directed by first timers, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley they never try to be too clever or knowing and as the jokes roll one after another, you find yourself chuckling along. The gags are inane, silly and stupid but they make you laugh. Standouts are a running rivalry with a truck driver (after Kevin asks him if all truck drivers are rapists on their Prancer’s built-in CB radio), Rusty’s handbrake turn that doesn’t quite go as ‘Vin Diesel’ as he planned and a very funny scene with a guy with a large rat on his shoulder. A simple joke very well-played. An amorous moment ruined by a motel bath also had me in stitches.
In an extended cameo, Chris Hemsworth pops up as weatherman Stone Crandall, husband to Rusty’s sister Audrey (Leslie Mann), when the family stop by for a visit. He’s clearly in his element exercising his comedy muscles for a change. He takes the mick (literally) out of his sex symbol status, with an enlarged package that he takes great care to highlight to Rusty and Debbie in case they were in any doubt. A scene in which he and Rusty herd cattle on quad bikes doesn’t quite work though and their visit wisely ends before it outstays its welcome. There are funny cameos too along the way from The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus, looking like he walked off the zombie set and Charlie Day who plays a white-water rafting instructor with personal problems.
In truth Vacation does so well as a standalone movie that when Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo show up it’s a bit distracting. Seeing them is a little surreal though neither has lost their Griswold charm. Vacation is one of those movies that does what it says on the tin and there are plenty of laughs that haven’t been crammed into the trailer. If you want to escape and have a chuckle, you could do a lot worse.