PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Reviews

Audiences Will Have No Fun on This 'Vacation'

Instead of finding a way to channel the original film's clever cluelessness, this new take on the material is all gross-out gags from two decades ago.


Vacation

Director: Burr Steers
Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Leslie Mann, Chris Hemsworth, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Charlie Day
Rated: R
Studio: New Line Cinema
Year: 2015
US date: 2015-07-29 (General release)
UK date: 2015-07-29 (General release)
Website
Trailer

The new Vacation film doesn't play by the rules. Sadly, it should. It violates the first mandate of a comedy: it's not very funny. It's gross-out gag filled script is hit or (mostly) miss at best. It then bends the requirements of a reboot/revamp/remake of the 1983 film of the same name. Instead, this is basically a sequel, several years in the making, that wants to channel the hilarious original while coming up with a bad taste version all its own. It fails so miserably that the truth in advertising watchdogs should demand a cease and desist for the use of the Vacation name.

Oh sure, the Griswolds are once again involved, except this time it's son Rusty (Ed Helms, decent, but no replacement for Anthony Michael Hall) who wants to go back to the days of the traditional family cross country crapfest. His wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate, completely wasted) thinks it a bad idea, and once you meet their mismatched brats -- older dreamer James (Skyler Gisondo) and baby bully Kevin (Steele Stebbins) -- you'll instantly understand why. We have to spend 90 minutes with this humorless brood.

Indeed, just like his daddy, Rusty ends up in a worthless auto, his Wally World destination sidetracked by visits to his sister Audrey (Leslie Mann) and her Fox News fearing weatherman hubby, Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth, proving Thor can do comedy as well). We also have to contend with "the perfect family" (Keegan Michael-Key and Regina Hall), a suicidal river raft guide (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Charlie Day, one of the few sources of energy in this limp excuse for entertainment), and, of course, a last minute cameo from Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo).

The rest of the movie's majorly mediocre script (from first time directors and Horrible Bosses scribes John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein) is nothing more than a series of scatological missteps. When Debbie has a chance to revisit her college days via a stop off at her sorority, the end result is a fountain of projectile vomit. When the Griswolds stop off at a "natural spring" to get in touch with nature, they end up bathing in a feces-filled pool of raw sewage. From Hemsworth's ever-present penis (make that, the exaggerated outline of same) to a sequence involving one of the kid's getting covered in cow guts, Vacation vents instead of inviting us in. It's more like an assault than a R-rated amusement.

Mimicking the Farrelly Brothers is fine, especially if it's 1998 and you've just seen There's Something About Mary zoom up the box office charts. But this is 17 years later, and the last time that duo tried for their recognizable raunch, they delivered the stillborn Dumb and Dumber To. Daily and Goldstein still think Kingpin and Me, Myself, and Irene are just around the corner. Instead, they're stuck presenting gags that haven't been funny since Bill Clinton was in office, if ever. Instead of modernizing their motives, taking the old fashioned Griswolds and making them come face to face with leisure circa 2015, we are lost in a loop of nasty nonsense which results in shoulder shrugs, not chuckles.

Again, the cast can't really be blamed. Helms wants to remind the audience of his character's father's clueless klutziness. Instead, he often comes across as a moron out of his stupidity league. Applegate struggles against the shrew she's been given and Mann and Hemsworth are marquee names only. Only Day and young Stebbins "get" this movie, making sure every line reading and each reaction add to our appreciation. Of course, they are often left hanging by a screenplay that wouldn't understand the nuances attached to the original by it's now legendary author, '80s icon John Hughes.

Clearly, Daily and Goldstein are no Harold Ramises either. His early career with Second City helped refine his idea of what was funny and what wasn't. Look at his resume in comparison with these two bozos and you'll quickly see where the problems lie. A stint on Freaks and Geeks (Daily) and time on several failed sitcoms (Goldstein) does not a comedy auteur make. Instead, this pair think they will sync up with their ADD addled audience enough to get a few snickers out of them. All they elicit are groans.

Chalk it up to yet another Hollywood hack job where missed opportunities and alternative approaches practically slap the viewer in the face. Why not a full blown family reunion, complete with bringing Hall and Dana Barron back as the kids. Introduce compelling and witty spouses, kid without the mandatory four-letter word approach to irony, and a situation (the closing of Wally World) that can make the obvious sense of nostalgia worth? Jurassic World got it right. Remember what the people liked about the original and give them more of that. Much more. That idea made it the third highest grossing film of all time. Vacation will be lucky if it makes a millionth of its gross.

Feel sorry for the fools who end up plunking down their money for this disaster. The Summer of 2015 has been graced with amazing epics (Mad Max: Fury Road) and high concept duds (Pixels). Vacation can't find a place between the two. That's because, when you're a cinematic bottom feeder, the ground floor is what you deserve. Vacation may not be the worst movie of the year, but it sure feels like it. That's what happens when you turn great expectations into poop joke pandering.

1

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.