“Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.” Those words would echo through the annals of history as Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) tried to treat his family to a great time. Disaster follows as they make their way to Walley World amusement park in Los Angeles, CA.
The first time I saw NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION, I was 9 years old. Despite not getting all of the jokes, most of the on screen gags always made me laugh. Ironically, the Cahlamer Family experienced several Griswold moments during family road trips from Milwaukee to Phoenix; once getting lost in Saint Louis after midnight and again in a black ice incident in Central Illinois. Suffice it to say that John Hughes’ characters do really extend into the real world.
Thirty-two years later, son Rusty (Ed Helms) is back in VACATION. Now an airline pilot with a family of his own, wife Debbie (Christina Applegate), and sons James (Skyler Grisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) are seeking a new tradition for a family vacation. Sensing that his family is tired of the same vacation, he gets the idea to try and relive his first adventure to Walley World.
With the Tartan Prancer full of luggage and family, they are off on their adventure, which includes a visit to Debbie’s Alma Mater, an ongoing lesson in CB chatter, a detour to ‘Griswold Springs’, a visit with sister Audrey (Leslie Mann) and her well-endowed meteorologist husband, Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth), a visit to the Four Corners monument, and a visit to a B&B in San Francisco owned by Clark and Ellen.
This ‘Vacation,’ written and directed by Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley, feels more awkward and forced. Each scene is treated as a skit, rather than having a natural flow from scene to scene.
Characters didn’t seem as fully realized here either. Helms and Applegate do admirable jobs in their respective roles, but it felt like they held back. Mann was relegated to the background while Hemsworth perversely steals the show, attempting to repeat Randy Quaid’s Cousin Eddie. Chase and D’Angelo reprise their roles as Grandpa Clark and Grandma Ellen. Sorely missing is an Aunt Edna-type character. At least the infamous Wagon Queen Family Truckster makes an appearance in all its Metallic Pea glory.
It wouldn’t be a vacation without Lindsey Buckingham’s rousing ‘Holiday Road’ over the opening credit montage or Vangelis’ Chariots of Fire Overture. While Mark Mothersbaugh does his magic, it doesn’t match Ralph Burns’ themes from the original film. This family Griswold finds its rhythm with Seal’s ‘Kissed From A Rose,’ replacing the Walley World National Anthem.
There are some genuinely funny moments, but this vacation feels washed out and it’s one I’d like to forget. As soon as I stop thinking about Stone’s ‘six pack.’