Vacation (2015) Movie Review “The Fuel Tank Runs Pretty Empty On This Road Trip”


Near the end of the movie, Ed Helms’s Rusty Griswold and his family arrive to a bed in breakfast.  They are greeted by the original Griswold’s Clark and Ellen from the original “Vacation” films.  Rusty and Clark stop to have a discussion where Rusty tells Clark that they are giving up their cross country journey to Wally World since nothing is going right on this trip.  When Clark is taken aback by that and tells him (and I’m paraphrasing a little bit), “The journey is hell but makes you appreciate the destination all the more”.

Now that line brings up an interesting thought.  Was this “Vacation” sequel (or reboot however you choose to classify it) worthy of the journey it puts the audience through and was the destination worth it?  Clark was right on one thing, “the journey is hell”.  This movie’s journey to the finale is a long and painful  one filled with long and uninspired humor that doesn’t know what it wants to be.  The thing Clark was wrong on was the finale did not make it any more satisfying.  And if you think I just spoiled a big part of this movie, then you’d be wrong.   There is nothing to spoil in this overly predicable retread that doesn’t inspire anything new in creativity.

Photo- Warner Bros
Photo- Warner Bros

There isn’t much to go into with the plot of this movie.  This film has a pretty simple premise it is essentially the same premise as the original, except it’s no longer about Clark Griswold.  Now Rusty, his son, is going to take his family on a cross country road trip to Wally World.  Rusty’s marriage to his wife is a bit of rut and he feels this trip can bring his family closer together including his two children (which are two boys).

One of the biggest issues (in a film full of issues) with this film is there doesn’t feel like there is a clear cut connective story.  In the original film Clark was going on and on about his tight schedule and getting everyone excited about everything they were about to embark on.  Everything felt like it had a purpose and felt like a connective story.  Here though everyone goes out on the trip on a whim and there places Rusty and his family travel feel random and out of the blue.  They will be driving along and something will be said or come up and someone would suggest hey let’s go there.  The way it’s all structured feels like a random collection of scenes for the trailers then a cohesive journey.

Photo- Warner Bros
Photo- Warner Bros

Not only is an identity crisis bad enough for a movie but it goes against what the “Vacation” series stands for.  Had this been a remake the movie could play around with the original’s premise and change up the tones of the series for a fresh take.  However the problem with all of this is “Vacation” clearly establishes that this is in the same universe as the original 1983 “Vacation”.   So, all the meta and wink, wink towards the camera doesn’t work within the same continuity.  National Lampoon’s 1983 “Vacation” had it’s outrageous moments but there was a sincerity to the jokes and an earnest real world setting.  It was this way through the entire series (even during the bad entries).  This film simply doesn’t fit within that same tone which is a problem if you’re saying this is the same universe.

Ed Helms is a bit of hit and miss comedic actor.  I think for the most part he is capable of providing good laughs and material.    At some points he seems like the perfect comedic actor to carry on the legacy of Chevy Chase.  He can have an everyman appeal to him and is great at freak out moments; which is what Chevy Chase was so great at.  Yet the problem with Helms (as what happens with him a lot in movies) is he doesn’t know how to restrain himself and not make the comedy so obvious.  He has a tendency to go overboard with too much of a “look at me I’m funny” attitude.  It works fine in “The Office” and “The Hangover” because he is part of ensemble and has others to bounce off of.  Here though as the lead it becomes tedious and annoying.

Photo- Warner Bros
Photo- Warner Bros

Then after spending an hour of unrestrained comedy with Helms he all of sudden becomes curiously quiet during the famous “flip out” moment that is present throughout the “Vacation” series.   Helms just doesn’t seem to have the right rhythm.

The rest of the cast isn’t much better.  Christina Applegate tries her best as Rusty’s wife Debbie but the material handed to her simply isn’t funny.  The two actors playing the kids are good at what they are expected to do.  Skyler Gisondo plays the wimpy older brother well while Steele Stebbins is good at playing the ass hole younger brother.  It doesn’t mean I liked their characters (with the youngest getting especially irritating) but they did what they were supposed to, so I can’t fault them for that.

There is a seemingly endless amount of appearances from some otherwise good actors.  Chris Hemsworth is actually not bad here.  He is giving it his all and manages to squeeze a couple of laughs out of the audience.  Leslie Mann isn’t used very well and therefore is forgettable in the whole movie’s runtime.  Charlie Day was a welcomed surprise and was able to sneak a few good one liners before his scenes turned into….well I’m not sure what it was (again felt like it was a completely different movie).

Photo-Warner Bros
Photo-Warner Bros

Did I mention that this movie really isn’t funny?  There is a couple moments here or there that are chuckle worthy and maybe one really good laugh.  But, this movie in its 99 minute runtime isn’t able to muster many more than just a hand full of laugh worthy moments.  Many jokes have been done better in other movies and some just don’t belong here.  The most concerning part about this movie is the same writers from this film (whom were also the directors) are now doing the screenplay for the upcoming Sony/Marvel “Spider-Man” reboot.   The best part of this movie was hearing the song “Holiday Road”….I enjoyed that part.

Final Score



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