“Vacation” is the latest film in the National Lampoon franchise of the same name. The film follows Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) who takes his family on a cross-country road trip to Walley World, the same theme park that he went to as a child. Christina Applegate plays Helms’ wife, as John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein write and make their directorial debuts.
I am a fan of Francis Daley and Goldstein’s writing. “Horrible Bosses” is one of my favorite comedies of all-time, and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” has more than its fair share of laughs. So maybe I’m biased when I say it, but “Vacation” is a very amusing time at the movies, even though it’s not without its share of flaws.
In case people like Adam Sander have forgotten, the first and foremost thing a comedy should do is produce laughs, and “Vacation” does that in large quantities. There is one scene in the film where I was actually rolling in my seat holding back tears I was laughing so hard, and that does not happen with me very often. Many of the jokes in the film are based off of awkward interactions and uncomfortable pauses, and directors Francis Daley and Goldstein do a good job knowing how long to hold the camera on an actor to get the proper reaction shot.
By and far the best part of the film is the younger son, played by Steele Stebbins. He curses, he verbally and physically abuses his older brother and he has wisecracking responses to most anything people say. His character may come off as too mean-spirited for some, but I bought it and thought he made the film.
A scene-stealing performance, however, comes from Charlie Day, who plays a white water rafting instructor. Day infuses some energy into the film just as it was starting to sag, and he produces several hardy laughs.
The film isn’t necessarily *good* like “Trainwreck” or “Spy,” and the plot is pretty thin. You get you standard road trip comedy hijinks, like crazy truck drivers and the car breaking down, so don’t go in expecting the re-invention of the wheel. You know how the film is going to play out, and at some parts that does make some scenes feel like byproducts of the sake of a single joke.
Some characters also are almost unbelievably stupid and naive, and even as someone who is forgiving of many things in dumb comedies, even I sometimes grew annoyed by their ignorance to certain situations.
I can best compare “Vacation” to “We’re the Millers,” in that if you are willing to overlook the implausible and cliché plot and just enjoy the film for being funny, then you’ll have a good time. I personally found the film an amusing way to enjoy two hours of my life, and compared to some of the other “comedies” from this summer like “Entourage” and “Pixels,” this is comic gold.
Critics Rating: 6/10