‘Vacation’ Movie Review: A Road Trip Worth Taking

Vacation Movie Review
CHRISTINA APPLEGATE as Debbie Griswold, SKYLER GISONDO as James Griswold, ED HELMS as Rusty Griswold, STEELE STEBBINS as Kevin Griswold, CHEVY CHASE as Clark Griswold and BEVERLY D’ANGELO as Ellen Griswold in New Line Cinema’s comedy ‘VACATION,’ a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

1983’s Vacation, directed by Harold Ramis from a script by John Hughes, still holds up to repeated viewings. 30+ years after its release, it remains one of those ’80s comedies it’s impossible to surf past on cable. Now, three decades after the Griswolds took off on a wild and wacky trip to Walley World, it appears the amusement park is still an irresistible draw for the Griswold men, but this time it’s a grown-up Rusty (played by Ed Helms) who orchestrates the road trip.

Vacation 2015 isn’t a remake but it does include many of the same elements from Ramis and Hughes’ classic comedy. Vacation, the 2015 version from writer/directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, takes everything that worked so well in the original movie and amps it up, twists it around, sprinkles some gag-inducing scenes involving vomit and human waste, and throws in a giant penis sported by Thor star Chris Hemsworth. Rusty, his wife, and their two sons are at the heart of 2015’s Vacation, but all of the Griswolds put in appearance in this sequel including Rusty’s sister Audrey (played by Leslie Mann) and mom and dad Griswold: Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo).

The premise is similar to the original in that a mom, dad, and two kids hit the road with Walley World as their ultimate destination. No one but dad Rusty is anxious to revisit the memorable road trip from his youth, and son James (Skyler Gisondo) even points out he’s never heard of the original vacation. [Wink, wink.] Rusty’s wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), would much rather head to Paris and the kids would rather do anything than sit in the back of a car for days on end. But Rusty’s just as determined as his father and won’t let his naysaying family put the kabosh on his road trip plans.

While the first Vacation was sweeter, the 2015 version is just as funny. Ed Helms is just as goofy and endearing as Chevy Chase, and just as oblivious. Rusty’s a decent man who’s trying to connect with his family and save his floundering marriage (the spontaneity and spark are noticeably missing). Helms plays Rusty as a slightly neurotic, eternally optimistic husband and father who constantly manages to say the wrong thing while at the same time doing so with the best intentions. A large portion of the film is spent wondering how Rusty ever managed to convince Debbie (Applegate) to marry him in the first place. Helms gives Rusty more layers than you’d expect and he’s the emotional center of the film.


As Debbie, Applegate plays the long-suffering wife well. She’s the 2015 version of Ellen Griswold to a T, and even has the calm and soothing voice down pat for those instances when Rusty goes off the rails. The chemistry’s strong between Applegate and Helms and both can throw out zingers or slide in humorous asides with the best of them. While they’re perfectly cast as the new Griswold couple in charge, it’s the kids who have the funniest lines.

Skyler Gisondo as the overly patient big brother and Steele Stebbins as Kevin, the little brother from hell, steal scene after scene from their veteran co-stars. Gisondo and Stebbins need their own spin-off, and both have incredible comedic timing. Stebbins in particular shows an extraordinary flair for physical comedy, but both young actors make this dysfunctional sibling relationship spring off the screen.

Also leaping off the screen is Chris Hemsworth, leaving behind his hammer-wielding ways in order to strut around in tighty whities, with a clear outline of what can only be described as a ginormous penis. Hemsworth plays Rusty’s brother in law, Stone Crandall, a hunky weatherman who’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. He’s extremely easy on the eyes and can charm the pants off a snake, and apparently that’s all it takes to read the weather off of a teleprompter in Stone’s part of town.

2015’s Vacation may not launch a new series of Griswold adventures, but it’s a worthy addition to the existing franchise. It’s nice to see Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo show up for a few minutes of screen time, and there’s a handful of surprising cameos (which I won’t ruin), all of which earned big laughs. Vacation turns out to be a surprisingly sweet, sentimental film in the end, but the road trip to that ultimate stop on the emotional highway is full of laugh-out-loud moments.

GRADE: B

MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content and language throughout, and brief graphic nudity

Running Time: 99 minutes

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