A new generation of Griswolds is on the road to Walley Road.
August 24, 2015
It starts and ends with the recognisable sounds of 'Holiday Road', and fills the time in-between with repeated refrains. It follows a formula established 32 years ago, and touches upon the same characters. The film in question is Vacation, the fifth and latest in the series. That it trades upon nostalgia is a given. That it doesn’t do a good job of doing so sadly is as well.
Indeed, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) similarly relies upon his ill-thought-out fondness for things and times gone by to spark the feature’s story. Though he’s devoted to his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), and kids, James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins), he can sense they’re not as excited as he is about their upcoming holiday.
To facilitate some big-time family bonding, he changes their plans, hiring a mini-van and plotting a course across the country to theme park Walley World. Rusty is also driven by another reason: the trip to come, and the destination, mirrors the memorable jaunt he had with his parents (Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo) and sister (now played by Leslie Mann) three decades earlier.
That writing-directing duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein shoehorn in a discussion about the pointlessness of rehashing past territory prior to the Griswold’s escape doesn’t really justify the episodic mess to come. Using a tongue-in-cheek exchange of dialogue to signify the script’s recognition of the weakness in trying to relive former glories is one thing; making a genuine effort to avoid falling prey to the laziness that often comes with such do-overs is another, and one the feature shows no evidence of trying to achieve.
So it is that Vacation cycles through incident after incident, and throws nonsensical gags — a ridiculous Albanian car and a repeated shout-out to Seal’s 'Kiss from a Rose' among them — into the mix. When brief appearances by bit-players, such as Keegan-Michael Key, Nick Kroll and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Charlie Day and Kaitlin Olson, command more attention and interest than the leads and narrative, you know that everything is far from ideal.
Playing up his attractive appearance, Chris Hemsworth becomes the movie’s star player simply by proving the most committed. Though his character, Stone Crandall, the weatherman husband to Rusty’s sister, is largely saddled with mentioning faucets, his dedicated delivery makes the absurdity amusingly stick.
There could be a message in the fact that the folks the Griswolds cross paths with along the way to their ideal getaway make more of an imprint, and the film certainly tries to push the theme of appreciating what you’ve got; however, overthinking the material gives the movie too much credit. Mostly, it remains content to strand the usually enjoyable Helms and Applegate in embarrassing situations and have them utter crude jokes.
Vacation also remains content with looking like a sleek but messy holiday video. Actually, that's exactly what the feature delivers: a clumsy compilation that's supposed to capture better days. That you'll be pleased every time 'Holiday Road' pops up — because it means that this cinematic road trip is making its way towards its destination — makes the most telling statement.