The Griswold family was a staple of my childhood. Watching Chevy Chase as everyman Clark Griswold, as he took his family on European vacations, family vacations, Christmas vacations and even a Vegas vacation was one of my first exposures to comedy. So I was thrilled when they decided to revamp the series, focusing on Clark’s now adult son Rusty. I was so excited. I was excited like that time I got flowers at work on Valentine’s Day.
And much like that time, it ended in disappointment. Just like those flowers, this movie was not for me.
Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) is a married father of two, who is planning a family trip from Chicago to California’s Walley World for Memorial Day Weekend. His goal is to fix the first vacation from the original family vacation movie, where they wound up at Wally World only to learn it was closed. They break the fourth wall early on for skeptical audiences.
“You want to redo your vacation?” asks wife Debbie (Christina Applegate). “My vacation had a boy and a girl,” Rusty retorts. “This one has two boys. And I’m sure there will be plenty of other differences.” That was cute, but then they just wouldn’t stop! “I’ve never heard of the original vacation,” says Rusty’s son James (Skyler Gisondo). “It doesn’t matter,” insists Dad. “The new vacation will stand on its own.”
We get it, ok. Let it go. Breaking the fourth wall requires surgeon like precision, not bashing us over the head with it over and over again.
Of course, the road trip is filled with peril and calamity. That’s where the similarities end, because this time, the laugh out loud moments are gone, replaced with fist fights and curse words. When someone isn’t swearing or fighting, it’s just dead air, like the movie was directed by a poorly maintained radio station.
Rusty Griswold never had a good vacation, not even once. The filmmakers could have seized on this as the overwhelming theme of the movie. Instead, they insisted on referencing the old movie to bring back shades of nostalgia to an audience who knew and loved the originals.
The problem is this movie is nothing like the originals. Not even the poorly done Vegas vacation, which was a shameless cash grab. That’s right, this movie doesn’t even compare to the worst of the franchise. I felt like they wrote a basic outline of the script, and then told the actors to improv. The problem was that Ed Helms is the only one who knows anything about improv and even he didn’t bring it in this movie.
If you want to revel in nostalgia, I highly recommend watching the other family vacation movies. Those actually provided the ability to laugh, even at incredibly inappropriate times (like the whole dog getting leashed to the rear bumper and forgotten). Chevy Chase made Clark Griswold both likeable and annoying in one fell swoop. I thought Ed Helms would be able to do the same for Rusty, but honestly, it was an outright fail.
WE GAVE IT: 2 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!