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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: Vacation

The Vacation series of films has long been a hit and miss affair, vacillating between brilliance (Christmas Vacation) and tedium (European Vacation). Its most recent entry, Vegas Vacation, was fine. It carried a few chuckle worthy moments, though the absence of long-time creative force, John Hughes, was keenly felt.

In the wake of We're The Millers surprise success just two years ago, the head-honchos at Warner Bros/New Line probably remembered that they also owned the rights to the Vacation franchise and thought a revival in that same mold would be a good idea. They even went so far as to cast the "easily confused for Jason Sudeikis" Ed Helms as new family patriarch Rusty Griswold, and the physical similarities between Jennifer Aniston and Christina Applegate these days are pretty apparent. The script even goes so far to paint its two leading ladies into very similar roles at the surface level. To say the studio is aiming for a repeat success using a proven formula seems obvious.

It's too bad this new west coast trip isn't very funny. At all.

Sure, there are a few cute gags sprinkled throughout, but I think I might have uttered a lone chuckle or two at the most for Rusty Griswold's revival of his family's 32 year old road-trip to the Wally World theme park. As a matter of fact, there are a number of call-backs to the original film, from the eyesore family vehicle, to the roadside flirtation between a family member and a fellow traveler, and an awkward hotel scene between the latter two objects of affection. The truth is, this is mostly a movie you've seen before and executed with greater verve and wit. Unless, of course, you find the idea of the Griswolds swimming around in fecal matter appealing. Or perhaps, you'd prefer scenes of Ms. Applegate projectile vomiting? And who can forget tried and true trucker rapist jokes?

What's appealing about the road-trip premise is that the situation constantly shifts from environment to environment, which indeed, keeps the tedium at a fairly short clip. I can say I was never bored, but I wasn't exactly entertained either. Which is a bit of a weird dichotomy, but with humor this strained, much of it just comes across as cringe-worthy or tired. Which in comedy is easily the worst place to be. Even the relatively reliable Chris Hemsworth falls a bit flat here, with an accent he can barely hold together and a bit of prosthetic upstaging. 

Let's not stand on ceremony here, this is a film that contains multiple Seal gags....multiple SEAL GAGS in 2015!

That is the kind of film you're signing up for with the new Vacation. Don't say I didn't warn you. Oh, and the guys behind it (John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein) are lined up to write the new Spider-Man reboot. Yikes. This is one time where I'm rooting for Marvel's corporate oversight.

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