Sunday, August 2, 2015

Film Review: Vacation

I don’t think it is hyperbole to call National Lampoon’s Vacation a classic. Nor do I feel it is an exaggeration to bestow such status upon National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. European and Vegas were passable, if not slightly forgettable, comedies. But if I had to sum up the new Vacation film with one word, it would be “disappointing.” Don’t get me wrong, the film isn’t horrible and perhaps the problem is with me; maybe I built the movie up too much and there was no way it could live up to my expectations. I’m a huge fan of the franchise and in my mind I figured it would be just like old times. There are some very funny parts! The two leads, played by Ed Helms and Christina Applegate, are likable and sympathetic. Some of the predicaments they find themselves in are hilarious. But then we come to their children: the oldest one is fine, but the youngest Griswold son is the epitome of obnoxious and almost ruined the movie for me in certain parts (the kid who plays him is a fine actor, but the character itself, as written, is the problem). He curses like a sailor and it got old for me in a hurry! There are some rare movies where excessive profanity adds to the humor. For example, The Heat uses its frequent foul language to set up several very funny gags (Smokey and the Bandit is an example of an older movie that does this effectively, too). But in Vacation I just didn’t find the cursing very funny. Perhaps it was supposed to be the gag, “Hey, this kid has a mouth that would make truckers blush,” but the gag completely misfired for me.
There were also several out-of-place references to one character’s political beliefs that had nothing to do with the plot. I don’t care if the filmmakers are liberal, conservative, or somewhere in the middle; just leave politics out of your pictures and dispense with the agenda. Maybe if the story had anything to do with politics it would have been different. But, as it is, it came across as completely needless.
Another issue I had was the film seemed to outstay its welcome. It is not a good sign when I’m fighting the urge to check the clock twenty minutes before the movie wraps up. Vacation clocks in right under two hours, and truth be told, about thirty minutes could have been shaved off.  There came a point where I found myself thinking, “Okay, let’s just get to whatever the next bad thing is that’s going to happen and get it over with.” The plot pretty runs as follows: family gets in tricky situation, end scene with gross-out gag, repeat ad nauseam, etc.  
I know I’ve had little positive to say about this picture, but it really isn’t all bad. There are more than a few laugh-out-loud moments, but a shorter run time, and leaving one character on the side of the road, would have benefited this film a great deal. Overall, Vacation is a decent film but a missed opportunity. 
Final verdict: 2.5 out of 5.

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