Vacation follows an adult Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) who decides to take his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and his two sons James (Skylar Grisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stibbins) on a cross country trek to his favorite childhood destination of Wally World after realizing that his family is stuck in a rut and needs to be brought closer together. As with previous vacations, things go awry in numerous funny ways and they meet a variety of characters on their way to their destination.
This movie reminded me so much of the 1983 version due to the simple fact that Wally World was once again the destination. There’s nothing wrong with rehashing an already used destination because the end result is pretty funny as the Daley and Goldstein have a clear love for the films, but as a huge fan of this franchise I would have liked to see this reboot chart new territory considering there are so many iconic and popular places in the world to go to. Since Clark and Ellen aren’t around to engage in the domestic hijinks, Rusty, Deborah, James, and Kevin and many others get into all sorts of funny situations. The most revealing has to be Deborah because it’s revealed that she was a wild party girl during her college days that would do anything and everything for her own pleasure and to get a rise out of people.
Seeing her drunkenly and quite poorly navigate an American Ninja Warrior inspired obstacle course is a treat to behold and Christina Applegate, with her ample comedy background, sells it beautifully. Kevin picking on his big brother is a breath of fresh air because it’s so unusual to see the older sibling being constantly ostracized and physically tormented by his younger sibling, but it’s handled well by the young actors and makes for some hilarious moments such as when James is trying to connect with a girl named Adina (Catherine Missal) on two occasions and Kevin either tries to suffocate him with a plastic bag or embarrass him by throwing rocks at him. James turns the tables after Adina gives him a verbal kick in the ass and Kevin thinks twice about picking on his brother again. There is one gag that is a throwback to the original film and that’s having Rusty, like his father before him, flirt with a hot model-like lady, who happens to drive a Corvette. Only this time, she veers over into the wrong lane of oncoming traffic, crashes, and dies.
The vacation movies wouldn’t be what they are without the family station wagon. While that does make a glorious and welcome appearance at the end of the movie, this isn’t what Rusty uses to take his family cross country. He uses a foreign made, sky blue van that at the press of one of the many unnecessary buttons on the keychain becomes a character itself and just might even be one of the best movie vehicles of the summer, right behind the vehicles in Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s also very a very durable car like the police car in The Blues Brothers. Rusty does a barrel roll in it, basically ruining it, yet it keeps running. Only when he tries to start it remotely after running out of gas does he finally destroy this ugly, ugly van.
Like many comedies of the past few years, there are many awesome cameos that come out of nowhere, especially one that involves a certain Walking Dead star. Micheal Pena, Kaitlin Olson, and Nick Kroll do very well as border patrol cops arguing over who has jurisdiction to arrest Rusty and Deborah for trying to have sex in public. The shot of them playing Monopoly and still not coming to a solution is hilarious. The big cameo here is Norman Reedus playing a seemingly creepy and stalking trucker, who only wants to give Deborah her wedding ring back after she accidentally leaves it at a truck stop in St. Louis. His tap dancing around Kevin’s question of him being a rapist is very funny. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo make a great cameo here, but it doesn’t add up to any laughs. Chevy Chase tries a little too hard to hit comedic notes and really isn’t given that much to do. Beverly D’Angelo fares worse as she’s just…there.
Ed Helms plays the straight man very brilliantly here and it’s something we’ve seen out of him before, but he manages to hit some very strong comedic notes. I’d sing Seal’s Kiss From A Rose with him any time. Christina Applegate was the perfect actress to play his wife with a wild past as she’s very adept at comedy and really shines here. Skylar Grisondo and Steele Stibbins do great work here as the two brothers with a hate-hate relationship and don’t come off as annoying or boring. Chris Hemsworth is a riot as Audrey’s egotistical husband Stone Crandall. His shameless showing of his well-endowed manhood is both funny and something we haven’t seen outside of Thor. I would say he has a future in comedy should he want one. Leslie Mann is great as Audrey, but she isn’t given that much to do other than be arm candy for Stone.
Vacation is a very funny and worthy successor to the films that came before it. Ed Helms was a perfect choice for Rusty and Christina Applegate was a great, inspired choice for his wife. For the sequel let’s hope they can get them out of the United States and visiting a tropical locale or a foreign country. There’s much more hijinks Daley and Goldstein can put them in outside of their domestic confines.