In “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983), Chevy Chase originated the hapless character of Clark Griswold, an eagerly oblivious dad who drove his family 2,500-miles cross-country to Walley World, America’s favorite fun park. In this reboot, Ed Helms (“The Hangover”) plays Clark’s moronic son, Rusty Griswold, a regional EconoAir pilot who yearns to re-create the same childhood road trip with his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), and two bickering sons: sensitive, guitar-strumming James (Skyler Gisondo) and foul-mouthed, bullying Kevin (Steele Stebbins), who wants to commit fratricide. Read on…
“You just want to redo your vacation from 30 years ago?” Debbie asks. “Isn’t that just going to be a disappointment?”
For her – you bet.
Particularly when Debbie re-visits the humiliating projectile vomiting of her Memphis college sorority days, when she was known as “Debbie Do Anything” for her binge-drinking, and she winds up swimming in human excrement.
Then there’s their rented Tartan Prancer, an Albanian minivan with button booby-traps and a navigation system that speaks only Korean; a suicidal Grand Canyon river-rafting tour guide (Charlie Day); the rickety Walley World roller-coaster; and multiple cover versions of Lindsay Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” theme song.
Stripped to his skivvies, hunky Chris Hemsworth (“Thor”) is Stone Crandall, a wealthy, right-wing, Texas weatherman who’s married to Rusty’s sister, Audrey (Leslie Mann), but nothing much clicks until Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo do a nostalgic cameo in their original Truckster station wagon.
Based on characters created by John Hughes and Harold Ramis, it’s written by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley (“Horrible Bosses,” “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”), who make their directing debut. Given the haphazard timing and ham-fisted staging, their bumbling inexperience is painfully obvious.
It’s also too bad so many of the humorous gags are in the Coming Attractions trailers. And while one would think of the comedic subject as family fare, its’ R-rating for profanity, sexual vulgarity, graphic nudity, along with crude pedophile and AIDS jokes, should discourage parents from bringing youngsters.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Vacation” is a frustratingly un-funny 4. Skip this forgettable trip.