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Vacation - DVD Review

Vacation

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 1 out of 5

IF Chevy Chase’s original National Lampoon’s Vacaction set up a new comedy franchise way back in 1983 for the way in which it made you laugh, you can see why the decision has been made to revive the Griswold family for a new generation. Sadly, the resulting film feels every bit like the desperate cash-in it really is.

Where the original was written by John Hughes, directed by Harold Ramis and offered up slapstick hilarity mixed with a little social comedy and even genre subversion, the reboot by John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein (of Horrible Bosses fame) opts for crass, juvenile and bad taste humour. It’s mean-spirited to boot, revelling in its continued desire to humiliate until the inevitable touchy-feely finale.

That’s not to say that bad taste humour can’t be fun (as in the Ted movies) but when it feels like it’s trying too hard, then what follows smacks of desperation, especially given the tired nature of the storytelling.

For here, once again, we have the Griswolds (now led by Ed Helms, the son of Chase’s character in the original), looking to follow in his father’s footsteps by taking his own family on a cross-country road trip to Walley World theme park in a bid to offer them something more interesting than their usual annual cabin getaway.

Needless to say, nothing goes as planned with family loyalties pushed to the limit by all manner of obstacles in their path (or, more commonly, their own brand of stupidity).

Comedic centre-pieces range from bathing in a lake of raw sewage to driving through a cow and being covered in entrails. There are repeated gags at the expense of truck drivers (who are perceived as rapists and paedophiles), as well as endless scenes of the Griswold children bickering with each other, fighting each other and generally humiliating each other in an attempt to gain alpha dominance.

And there are also the various oddball characters they meet along the way, including a suicidal rowing instructor in the middle of the Grand Canyon (played by Charlie Day), or Helms’ sister (Leslie Mann) and her well-endowed husband (Chris Hemsworth). But while such characters do bring a little charm to the mix, most of the gags involving them are over-worked and just plain repetitive.

A supposedly ‘feel-good’ finale that sees the long put-upon Griswolds take their frustrations out on a richer, more spoilt family in a no-holds barred fist fight (that includes a slow-mo punch to a teenage girls’ vagina) is supposed to bring about some cheer, but really epitomises all that’s wrong with this misguided endeavour: ie, there’s nothing here that’s particularly funny, while none of the characters feel remotely sympathetic.

As a result, the film’s cast flounder. Helms aims to endear by channelling Chase whenever possible, but is dragged down by the lame material, while it’s sad to see Christina Applegate having to demean herself as the mum, whose promiscuous past also offers up another opportunity to drop in loads of gags at her expense.

With so little to recommend it, you almost feel guilty for smiling when the odd (and we mean random) gag raises a smirk. But they’re so few and far between that the most common sensation you’re likely to experience is one of boredom. This is a vacation to avoid.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 99mins
UK Blu-ray and DVD Release: December 14, 2015