Starring: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth
Rated R for Crude and Sexual Content and Language Throughout, and for Brief Graphic Nudity
"National Lampoon's Vacation" has not aged well. Even as a preteen, I found it dated and rather toothless. To be quite frank, the only one in the franchise that's worth seeing is "Christmas Vacation," a common holiday staple (and for good reason). So it makes more sense to reboot it than in other cases where the franchise probably should have been left to rest.
Rusty Griswold (Helms) is a pilot at a minor airline who feels bad that he can't afford to take his family on the big lavish vacations that they deserve. So while his wife Debbie (Applegate) is gushing over the pictures of his neighbors' trip to Paris (one of which is the incredibly irritating Keegan-Michael Key, sadly...it would have been funnier if they had gotten Denzel Washington or even Idris Elba), he decides to go all out and take a family road trip to Wally World, just as his father did when he was a boy. Needless to say, Murphy's Law is in full force: anything that can go wrong, does.
"Vacation" is funny. There's no denying that. At times, explosively so. It's also extremely stupid. It appeals to our baser instincts only. In fact, the humor is so bottom of the barrel that I sometimes felt ashamed for laughing at it. "Ted 2," despite being just as rude, crude, and sophomoric, at least didn't feel like it was insulting my intelligence. Boy, does this one ever!
For the most part, Ed Helms is a worthy successor to Chevy Chase. He has the comic timing and manic energy needed for the part, but lacks the earnestness that made Clark Griswold so endearing. You can't watch "Christmas Vacation" without feeling sorry for Clark because he so unselfishly wants a perfect family Christmas. It gave the film an emotional edge that this one lacks. Did I care about anyone in this movie? Not really.
Helms is surrounded by a supporting cast, but they're almost completely forgettable. The only one worth mentioning is Chris Hemsworth, who plays Rusty's ultra-Texan conservative brother-in-law. Hemsworth gives it a game try and is clearly having fun (not to mention the fact that he has no shame), but there's no denying that he's miscast.
Look. If you want to laugh, see this movie. It's at times very funny, and unlike many comedies these days, it doesn't belabor the jokes or overstay its welcome. It's the movie that the original should have been. But just know that there are other, better comedies out there that do a lot more for the mind and the emotions...while still making you laugh just as hard.