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Murray Journal

Dan's Review: "Vacation" not exactly a family movie

Jul 29, 2015 11:31PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Ed Helms and Christina Applegate in Vacation - © (c) 2014 Warner Bros.

Vacation (Warner Bros.)

Rated R for crude and sexual content and language throughout, and brief graphic nudity.

Starring Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Leslie Mann, Chris Hemsworth, Beverly D'Angelo, Chevy Chase, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Charlie Day, Keegan-Michael Key, Catherine Missal, Elizabeth Gillies, Tim Heidecker, Nick Kroll, Kaitlin Olson, Michael Peña.

Written and Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein.



You really haven’t experienced “America” unless you’ve seen it from the back of a station wagon, minivan or SUV. This “American” experience is much more than basic scenery or tourist traps, also involving the complicated relationships of family members trapped inside confined space. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) almost perfectly captured the comedic frustrations of a family road trip, complete with an obsessed dad, indifferent teens, theme park hazards and all the awkward situations one might encounter with an assortment of eccentric relatives.

Well, the Griswolds are back with the second generation, led by Rusty (Ed Helms), his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and sons James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins). Frustrated by the prospects of another boring family summer vacation, Rusty decides that the best remedy is to pack up and relive one of his most significant childhood experiences: a road trip from Chicago to Walley World. The family eventually reaches California, but not before several stops and mishaps along the way. Those experiences include reliving Debbie’s drunken days at college, several troubles with the family’s rented Albanian SUV, being tracked by what seems like a homicidal truck driver, a dip in a sewage pond, a failed sexual experiment at the Four Corners monument, and a visit with Rusty’s sister Audrey (Leslie Mann) and her hunky husband Stone (Liam Hemsworth).

After all their troubled encounters on the road, the Griswolds eventually opt to bypass Walley World and take refuge with Rusty’s parents Clark and Ellen (Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo), who own a bed & breakfast in San Francisco. Once there, Clark gives Rusty another pep talk, and the family decides to trek on to Walley World after all.

Vacation was much funnier than I expected it to be, since we’ve seen all the horrors of family travel in the 1983 original – or so I thought. There were several hilarious moments in the movie, mostly having to do with Ed Helms’ portrayal as a chip off the old Griswold block, complete with romantic ineptitude, and an annoying “can-do” attitude about quality family time, no matter what the cost. There are other funny moments involving the two young sons, but they are less than cerebral when one considers the overuse of salty language uttered by younger lad.  Swearing kids lose their appeal when the gimmick is overused.

There are other cringe-worthy moments in Vacation involving fecal matter, sexual improprieties, and seeing a little too much of Liam Hemsworth (some ladies might disagree), but the irreverent humor is tempered by a good cast and sometimes clever script.

One caution for fans of the “Vacation” franchise: The new installment is NOT a family movie, despite its subject matter and the presence of kids. As the sequels progressed throughout the Vacation series over the past 3 decades, they trended more toward PG-13 (Christmas Vacation) or even PG ratings (Vegas Vacation). The new Vacation trends more toward the original R-rated original, only a little rougher around the edges. 

Okay, a lot rougher.

Vacation Trailer