Not so much a family vacation as a very adult nightmare.



Christina Applegate and Ed Helms


As the comic institution that was National Lampoon is no longer what it was (the magazine folded in 1998), the re-tread of National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) is now just Vacation. The original comedy – which starred Chevy Chase – was the story of the Griswold family’s cross-country trip to visit the theme park Walley World. Its success spawned three sequels and a TV movie. Now, Clark Griswold’s son Rusty (Ed Helms) is grown-up with a family of his own, with a loving wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), and two sons, James and Kevin. When Rusty realises that the annual trip to a cabin in the woods has lost its appeal, he decides to inject some excitement into the Memorial Day holiday by recreating the original Walley World-inspired trip. The first omen of impending disaster is the cheap Albanian minivan he’s hired, with a swastika on the key fob and a satnav that defaults to furious directions in Korean. This, initially, is funny, but as the journey progresses into increasingly nightmarish territory – with each ensuing catastrophe more predictable than the last – the laughs dry up.


Chris Hemsworth makes a game cameo as Rusty’s brother-in-law (flaunting an admirable sick-pack, among other things) and Steele Stebbins, as the youngest, foul-mouthed Griswold, manages to sustain a commendable level of conviction, even while his on-screen parents over-act disgracefully. Sadly, though, this is 2015 and not 1998, so the accent is on profanity, sexual deviation, racism, scatology, way too much projectile vomiting and even a surprising number of fatalities. This is dark stuff (jokes about paedophilia, analingus and suicide abound) and makes a mockery of any family vacation. When Chevy Chase himself shows up (he used to be a big star, now he’s just morbidly obese), his appearance is more depressing than comic. And when the funniest thing in the movie is an angry satnav and Chris Hemsworth’s obsession with faucets, we know the film missed its calling.




Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Leslie Mann, Beverly D'Angelo, Ron Livingston, Skyler Gisondo, Chris Hemsworth, Chevy Chase, Steele Stebbins, Charlie Day, Catherine Missal, Norman Reedus, Regina Hall, Michael Peña, David Clennon, Colin Hanks.


Dir Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, Pro David Dobkin and Chris Bender, Screenplay Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, Ph Barry Peterson, Pro Des Barry Robison, Ed Jamie Gross, Music Mark Mothersbaugh, Costumes Debra McGuire.


New Line Cinema/BenderSpink/Big Kid Pictures-Warner Brothers.

98 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 21 August 2015. Cert. 15.