Monday, August 3, 2015

Summer Movie Season: Bad Vacation

Exactly how I felt about halfway through this movie

I thought of many different ways to start this review/experience/view of the new Vacation movie, the latest attempt to revive the National Lampoon’s [insert descriptor here] Vacation movie. But there’s only one thing you need to know: The movie starts with a shot of a random dude’s buttcrack. Then it manages to go downhill from there. 

Warning, this could contain spoilers, or this could contain the fact that I’ve watched this so you don’t have to. That part is up to you.

Vacation stars Ed Helms, taking over the Rusty Griswold role from... well, the many different people who’ve played the role. (Including Anthony Michael Hall, who’s presence would have made for a funnier movie.) He’s a pilot for a small, local airline, and we’re treated to the sheer comedy of him groping a woman and little boy accidentally for a few minutes before we get to the comedy gold that he’s not very assertive. As we see with one scene with Ron Livingston as a rival pilot. Don’t worry, the movie won’t comment on this until the very end.

Realizing his family is in a rut, after a very uncomfortable dinner scene that wastes Michael Keegan-Key and Regina Hall, Rusty decides to take his family to Wally World! We’re assured that this is not a re-do of his original vacation in a very meta scene that was spoiled by all the trailers. (And you know how I feel about spoilers.) His wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate) and his two kids don’t really seem up for the idea, but they’re just excited not to take the same trip that they had taken their entire lives to some cabin in a moment that’s thrown off pretty quickly, but hints at... problems to come! 

So they’re off on their cross country road trip in their rented car that... doesn’t make quite any sense, but it’s foreign and they don’t get it so that’s the joke. They stop at Debbie’s old college and learn about her wild college days with plenty of booze and vomit. There’s more gross understandings. Yes, Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo make cameos to pass the torch to the new generation. And they get to Wally World, and they all learn a little bit more about each other .

Ok, so where to start.

Let’s start with Rusty’s Kids, played by Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins. Skyler plays James, the sensitive older brother, and Steele plays Kevin, the younger brother that’s meant to be mischievous, but plays more like a psychopath than an “aw, shucks isn’t he cute” younger brother. Maybe you can be treated to one of the many scenes where he actively attempts to kill his brother. I don’t mean in a fun way, he has a recurring joke where he puts a bag over his brother’s head. I get part of that is to show off how clueless his parents are, but really? And by the third time, it’s obnoxious. 

Then there’s the subplot that’s hinted at heavily, but never discussed but it’s ok it’s handwaved away in the one scene. Basically, Debbie spends the movie reading “The Help.” If you guessed that the jacket cover hinted that their marriage was falling apart, well, then, you’re right. Debbie is thinking about leaving Rusty. It’s never mentioned, and there is the recurring motif (I can’t believe I used that word here) where her ring keeps falling off, but it’s never really addressed until Rusty finds the book, and they realize “hey let’s just work it all out, right now.” And they do. And it’s never mentioned again. 

The ring falling off leads to a funny cameo by The Walking Dead resident badass Norman Reedus. That was kind of funny, I guess.

I get that the original Vacation movies won’t win awards for subtlety, but they knew when to back off sometimes. When Debbie vomits for the third time after chugging a beer to do a beer run, it just seems excessive. The car exists for the sheer purpose of throwing around a few “wow this car is weird” jokes, which get tired. Same with the sensitive brother, which shows so many moments of being brilliant only to fail, Miserably. 

And I haven’t even touched the Chris Hemmsworth scenes. He’s in a loveless marriage with Aubrey, also now played by Leslie Mann, in a scene where Rusty of course has to go visit in his sister because let’s bring everyone in.  He’s basically a ripped cattle rancher/weatherman/perfect guy who is sent to threaten Rusty and his marriage with Debbie. (After they go swimming in toxic waste.) 

I’m surprised we didn’t get a few scenes in Randy Quaid’s jail cell. But yeah, the scenes with Chris Hemmsworth exist as they were filmed, and now we can at least say that Red Dawn isn’t the worst remake he’s appeared in.

As for Vacation, it did serve an extremely important function: It made me appreciate Hot Pursuit more as a summer movie. 

Three out of Ten. 

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