Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Film Review: VACATION

I do not own the above image.  Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures.  All rights reserved.

            Going to the movies should be a comforting experience.  An air-conditioned, dark room with a flickering light flying above you.  A comfy seat to sit in with popcorn in your lap & a drink in the cup holder to your right.  The horny teenagers seated in front of you not caring if you see them about to go at it.
            But what if the experience isn’t satisfying?  What if the movie projected by the light from above is a dud?  What if the movie is a remake/reboot/sequel/shameless cash grab of a funny 30 year old movie?  What if the jokes…weren’t funny?!?!
            Budget airline pilot Rusty Griswald (Helms) wants to take his family on a GREAT vacation.  Instead of going to the cabin like they’ve done every year, Rusty plans to relive the trip of a lifetime from childhood: Walley World.  Renting a car & dragging his wife Debbie (Applegate) and their two boys along for the ride in a goofy rental car.  Along the way, they have detours at Deb’s sorority, Rusty’s sister's ranch and Four Corners National Park.  And not a single moment is enjoyable, funny or touching.
            If you’ve been alive & own a television the past three weeks, you’ve been seeing ads for VACATION.  One in particular features a throwback to the scene in the 1983 original where Christie Brinkley drives alongside the Griswold station wagon in a red convertible & flirts with Clark that led to a fascinating & humorous subplot.  Today, it’s still a red convertible but the young lady is a random blonde & the scene ends with her running head on into a semi truck.  That scene is the perfect representation of everything wrong with this movie and the reboot/remake culture in the film industry in general.  Writers/first-time directors John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein have such reverence for the original that they know exactly how to hit the nostalgia chords in its fans by making specific references.  But the references add nothing to the very weak story.
            VACATION is not about the Griswold family trying to enjoy a road trip vacation.  The movie centers on the boring relationship of Rusty & Debbie.  The family goes from set piece to set piece but the story always centers on Debbie complaining about how her life & marriage has gone limp and leaves the boys as two of the many forgettable side characters.  And the only people more bored than Debbie with their marriage are the paying customers in the movie theatre.  Daley & Goldstein, after all the references to the original, don’t understand what made the original beloved: a family’s ability to bond over the trials & tribulations of a road trip family vacation.  Instead, we get Debbie whining in private to the oblivious Rusty.  Good times!
            How do you make Leslie Mann unfunny?  How do Chevy Chase & Beverly D’Angelo appear in a movie together & not make me chuckle?  I’ve laughed at Christina Applegate in the past.  I’ve howled at Ed Helms too.  So much comedic talent like Charlie Day, Ron Livingston & Keegan-Michael Key in supporting roles are wasted as none of their characters or any character for that matter are the least bit funny or interesting.  All blame for this movie’s failure lies at the feet of Daley & Goldstein as writers.  A majority of the humor is of the sophomoric variety with scenes involving puking, swimming in raw sewage and the misunderstanding of sex terms.  They set out to make an ‘R’-rated movie but didn’t use the rating to its full potential.  All they did was add expletives to childish PG-13 situations to appease the 10 & 13-year-olds next to me.  The Estate of John Hughes should have sued for making a movie this juvenile with his baby.

            VACATION is a lifeless, joyless exercise in stupid: Stupid characters, stupid situations, and stupid “humor” for stupid ticket buyers.  I’m waiting for the day when an audience will revolt against a movie that insults their intelligence.  VACATION should have been a movie for those who saw the original on cable at age 7 in 1986 and has his first night out in a while with his wife w/o the kids.  Instead, the movie was made for his kids.  And the movie is too stupid for its target audience.


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