Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo were cool. National Lampoon's Vacation was dark and uncomfortable. When the Griswolds finally got there, Walley World was closed. The new Vacation is betrayed by time. Writers/directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein try their darnedest to preserve the tone of the originals, but the glossiness and brightness of it nearly ruins its attempts to get down and dirty. Plus, when they get there, Walley World is open.
In the original, the Griswolds visit Randy Quaid on their way to Walley World. RANDY QUAID. In the new one, they visit Chris Hemsworth. Not that Hemsworth doesn't have comedic chops"”he pulls it off. But it's indicative of what doesn't quite compute in the new Vacation. The movie is just too...pretty.
Applegate, Stebbins, Gisondo, and Helms,BenderSpink
At least it's clear that Daley and Goldstein are fans of the original and wanted to do it justice. They approach it smartly. Instead of a remake, Ed Helms plays a grown-up Rusty, a regional pilot whose family is just barely hanging together by a thread. Christina Applegate is his tired wife, Debbie, who has the terribly banal wife wish that her husband will take her to Paris someday. Their kids, sensitive teenager James (Skyler Gisondo), and little bullying asswipe Kevin (Steele Stebbins), can barely stand to be in the same room as each other. When Rusty realizes the cabin they've been going to every year isn't exactly Debbie's idea of paradise, he decides to stuff his family into a minivan and road trip over 2,000 miles to Walley World"”the place where his dad took his family that one time.
Obviously, shenanigans ensue, from a disastrous white water rafting trip to an unfortunate dip in a sewage-filled "hot spring." The movie's at its best when it's killing off characters, getting gruesome with animal accidents, and truly being nasty. And it definitely has those moments.
Helms was the perfect choice to play the head of the new Griswold clan. Smiling through the pain is what he's done best since his pent-up portrayal of Andy Bernard on The Office, and that's a very Chevy Chase quality to have. When Chase and D'Angelo show up toward the end, they successfully bring it home. While Vacation isn't National Lampoon's Vacation, it does the best it can. Walley World is open when they get there, but it's far from a blissful ending for the new Griswold clan.
Appelgate, Helms, Chase, D'Angelo, Stebbins, and Gisondo, BenderSpink
The special features take us behind the scenes and detail the conversations about taking a stab at such a classic. The writers, directors and actors knew what they were getting into, have a great respect for the original, and thought long and hard about what aspects they wanted to preserve. Some deleted scenes and bloopers pad out the special features as well.
Vacation is sort of a delayed hit"”not everything they try works, but after a couple days, you'll be laughing about some of those moments you thought you'd forgotten about. If you're a fan of the original, it's worth a watch.