Credit: Hopper Stone
  • Movie

As a child of the ’80s, I’ll admit to being a bit overprotective of the cinematic touchstones of my youth. Take National Lampoon’s Vacation, which came out in 1983 and was written by the late great John Hughes. Three decades on, that road-trip comedy remains a near-perfect mix of banana-peel slapstick, taboo raunch, and feel-good family sentiment. Trying to improve it is pointless. Then again, maybe that was never the goal. Written and directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, the new Vacation is both better than I’d feared and not as hilarious as I’d hoped. It’s intermittently funny and instantly forgettable. With the same dorky brand of sincerity he brought to The Office, Ed Helms is the best thing in the film as Rusty Griswold, the grown-up son from the original, now an oblivious paterfamilias who could find the sunny side of any rotten egg that life or his resigned wife (Christina Applegate) or his bickering sons (Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins) might hurl his way. He’s a middle-aged, middle-American pushover. Eager to bring his dysfunctional clan closer together, Rusty decides to re-create the same 2,500-mile odyssey to Walley World that he took with his parents 32 years earlier. Like then, he’s met at every detour by horrors and humiliations (the best of which, like a dip in a sewage-festooned hot spring, are spoiled in the trailer). What’s missing is the pent-up anger that simmered behind Chevy Chase’s doofus grin. His Clark was always on the verge of a nuclear-family meltdown. Helms lacks Chase’s passive-aggressive edginess. The new Vacation isn’t bad in the same way Poltergeist was earlier this year. But if the studios insist on plundering their Reagan-era vaults for “new” ideas, they should aim higher. B–


2015 movie
  • Movie
  • R
  • 98 minutes
  • John Francis Daley
  • Jonathan Goldstein