The new ‘Vacation’ is a conflicting movie for me. It is a really good road trip movie, but I’m still not sure whether it’s a good ‘Vacation’ movie. The original film of the same name and its sequels (that Cousin Eddie Xmas movie withstanding) are now classic films. This new sequel, while good and often hilarious, just doesn’t have that same feel. It features most of the original characters (now in new roles) plus a host of amazing cameos (Chris Hemsworth, Keegan-Michael Key, Regina Hall, Kaitlin Olson, Nick Kroll, and more). The film’s whole dynamic just feels more like a generic road trip movie (albeit an amazing one) than a film in the ‘Vacation’ franchise.
The plot of the new film is a callback to the original with a family road trip to Wally World, but this time it’s Rusty (Ed Helms), the son in the previous movies, taking his family. Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) have a lackluster cameo, but other than that and a few well written callbacks this is its own movie.
For all intents and purposes this is a good thing. It just would not be the same to see another group of actors attempt to recreate the same chemistry of the original film. The ‘Vacation’ films have always been just as much about the characters as the trips and shenanigans. To be perfectly honest they were mainly about Clark Griswold and his narcissistic and obsessive attempts to do the simplest tasks. Ellen and the kids were there, but they weren’t always given the best plotlines to work with.
Ed Helm’s Rusty is not Clark Griswold. If anything he feels very similar to Stu from ‘The Hangover’. He is a well-intentioned nice guy that just wants to take his family on a vacation to relieve the monotony of the cabin vacation they take every year. Helms plays this role well (in every film he has done it), but it’s just not the same.
Of course the path taken by this film penned by John Francis Daly and Jonathan Goldstein is much preferable to any sort of straight up reboot. If this version is conflicting I can only imagine if a group of actors were tasked with recreating the iconic Griswold characters.
Don’t get me wrong, this new ‘Vacation’ movie has loads of hilarious moments. It features some very original set-ups and it will make you laugh. Nevertheless, it is meant to be a new ‘Vacation’ movie, and the moments meant to tie this film in are either not that funny or just make you want to watch the original.
In the end only time will tell if this movie joins the level of the now classic ‘Vacation’ films. I think the films that come out of this Rusty centered sequel (they are already working on another one) will live or die on their own, meaning if they reach classic status they will be thought of as separate from their Clark Griswold centered predecessors. Staying power or not, the new ‘Vacation’ is at least worth a watch for more than a few good laughs.
Own Vacation on Blu-ray Combo Pack or DVD on November 3rd.