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VACATION Review: You’re Better Off Taking a Staycation

We're going to Walley World again. Can't we just stay home?
We’re going to Walley World again. Can’t we just stay home?

“What could go wrong?” asks the tagline, plastered onto every Vacation poster. The answer? Everything.

National Lampoon’s Vacation – the 1983 comedy directed by Harold Ramis, from a screenplay by John Hughes – is the story of an average American nuclear family who encounter innumerable bumps in the road while making the trek to America’s favorite family fun park.

National Lampoon’s Vacation worked so fantastically, and still holds up today, because it was relatable. Strapping a dead relative to the roof of the family vehicle on the way to an amusement park is an unfortunate circumstance that has only befallen the Griswolds – I hope – but haven’t we all been squeezed into a crappy car with our annoying siblings as we were transported across country? Haven’t we all encountered mishaps in our quests for fun? In National Lampoon’s Vacation, those mishaps include lost luggage, ruined meals, rain, embarrassing relatives, and the kind of arguments families have when they’re forced to share the backseat of the car for hours at a time. It wasn’t just relatable – it was funny, and it didn’t rely on endless “shock humor” to be funny. You liked this family, you rooted for them to band together and get to their destination so they could have the family adventure Clark Griswold dreamed about.

In the end, National Lampoon’s Vacation was a family movie about a family. 2015’s Vacation – the “sequel that’s definitely not a remake” – is a crass, crude, adults-only movie about a group of assholes.

The Griswold family.
The Griswold family.
The Griswold assholes.
The assholes Griswold family.

All I wanted out of Vacation was for it to be funny. I wasn’t expecting Vacation to top National Lampoon’s Vacation. There, the Wagon Queen Family Truckster was steered by Harold Ramis, with John Hughes providing the road map. Here, the car is steered by new directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, who strap us into a cheap, off-brand rental car and barrel it down a highway. We aren’t going to Walley World – no, we’re going to Wally Wurld, the cheaper, extreme knockoff that pretends to be Walley World, but is actually a hollow, cynical ripoff. Actually, this movie would call it “Walley F***in’ World: Vagina Dick Shit Balls Poopymouth.”

Daley and Goldstein – who also co-wrote Vacation – wrote Horrible Bosses and provided the story for Horrible Bosses 2. And that’s the kind of humor you get here: vulgarity for the sake of being vulgar, with hopes of being shocking.

The endless parade of “penis,” “vagina,” “AIDS,” “rape,” “pedophile,” “f***,” “shit,” and “balls” mentions convinced me this film was actually written by Cartman from South Park. 

Cannibalism, blood and guts, a ball of pubic hair, exploding cars, projectile vomit, fist fights, violent deaths, penis graffiti, human feces – it reads like a list of things that would be scheduled into an Ozzy Osbourne concert, but it’s actually a list of things that comprise Vacation. And that’s all there is to this movie.

Even the hilarious Ed Helms can't make this material funny.
Ed Helms was a great pick to replace Chevy Chase as the hapless father out to give his family a good time. But even the hilarious Ed Helms can’t make this material funny.

If the 2015 Vacation doesn’t sound true to the 1983 National Lampoon’s Vacation, that’s because it’s not. This isn’t a sequel. It’s a tasteless ripoff – sorry, remake – of National Lampoon’s Vacation. Actual sequels should retain the spirit of their predecessors. Vacation eats its predecessors, shits them out, and then thinks putting that shit into Christina Applegate’s mouth is hilarious.

“This Vacation will stand on its own,” says Rusty, and thankfully that’s true, because I can pretend this movie doesn’t exist. 

Vacation is cartoony, mean-spirited, and completely without the heart and even warmth that was found in the original. Here, being as raunchy as possible is the goal. I’m not a prude. I can maybe laugh at these things — if the humor isn’t lazy, uninspired, regurgitated, and raunchy for the sake of being raunchy.

Here’s the last call: If you liked Horrible Bosses and Horrible Bosses 2, you’ll probably enjoy Vacation. If the type of humor in those films isn’t to your taste, you probably won’t like this movie. This is Horrible Bosses: Road Trip. It’s the same kind of humor, the same kind of shallow film that forgoes putting in any warmth or actual human emotion in favor of the millionth dick joke. Forgetting the original (the filmmakers clearly did), and taking Vacation as its own thing, this movie just isn’t funny. It’s just a list of bad or gross-out things happening to unlikeable people.

It’s fitting that the last thing you hear in Vacation is a toilet flush.

Don’t bother taking this Vacation — pull a staycation instead. You’d have more fun staying at home and watching the original.

Vacation: 1/5


I call it as I see it.

– Sin City Cam

Check back on Red Carpet Refs for the next installment of UNDER FURTHER REVIEW, which will take an in-depth look at Vacation.

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I’m all about movie news, movie reviews, and writing about the movies I see. You can follow me on Twitter at @SinCityCam.

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