VACATION sees Rusty Griswold all grown up and having his own adventure getting his family to Walley World, did he learn nothing growing up? The originals of these movies were so stupid and so incredibly awesome – these were some of my favourite comedies as a much younger child. Kernel John reviews VACATION and his review has made me actually want to see the movie, sometimes we all need a little OTT stupid comedy…..and Chris Hemsworth’s penis, (did I say that out loud?). VACATION is out now from Warner Bros in conjunction with Roadshow Films, it is rated MA15+ and runs for 99mins. Enjoy John’s great review….all the best….JK. 


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The Griswold family burst onto our screens in the hilarious 1983 cult classic NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION. A critical and commercial success, Chevy Chase’s character Clark W. Griswold, Jr. went on to spawn three further progressively worse films about one father’s desperate attempt to reconnect with his disillusioned family. Now, more than 30 years since the Griswolds first set out in their vomit green station wagon, Clark’s son, Rusty, played by Ed Helms (THE HANGOVER series), is all grown up with a dysfunctional family of his own to try and entertain for the holidays.

Rusty’s wife Debbie, played by Christina Applegate (ANCHORMAN), eldest son James, played by Skyler Gisondo (NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB), and youngest son Kevin, played by Steele Stebbins, join together to retrace the journey set out in the 1983 original. Disheartened to find that his family do not enjoy the annual camping trip he has been taking them all on for the past few years, Rusty decides to mix things up. Drawing inspiration from his own childhood road trip, Rusty sets out to take the group to Walley World instead, to ride the theme park’s newest rollercoaster, Velociraptor.


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Along the way the clan stops off at Debbie’s old college sorority house, takes a wrong turn on the way to a hot spring, has an unfortunate disagreement with a cow while visiting Rusty’s oppressed sister Audrey and her husband at their farm, manages to get on the wrong side of a psychotic trucker, and goes on a truly thrilling white water rafting adventure. As expected in true National Lampoon’s style, none of these adventures turns out well for the Griswolds. However, through it all, Rusty struggles mightily to raise his family’s spirits and hold the group together, always looking on the brighter side of events.

This is a film all about the journey. Walley World may very well have been the destination of the trip, but it was never the goal. Rusty recognises that his family has become disenchanted with their lives and each other, to such a degree that a spin on the Velociraptor alone cannot fix. In his poorly thought out attempt to reunite with his family, Rusty forces the four of them to spend almost every waking moment together in the close quarters of their car as they travel across the country. In the process, each member of the group learns to put aside any differences they have with the others, and come together as a family. This is no more prevalent than in the final scenes where each Griswold stands shoulder to shoulder with the other in an epic battle royal against the family’s arch nemesis.


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For me, the comedy of the film was quite engaging and entertaining, though at times it bordered on the slapstick and crude. Overall however, I found myself laughing through most of the movie. The acting was likewise quite good, though some of the interactions between characters felt weak. If I have one issue with this film, it was that the Griswold family dynamic seemed disjointed. The movie primarily dealt with Rusty and Debbie rekindling their marriage, or James and Kevin settling their sibling rivalry, but little screen time was devoted to genuine parent-child connections.

There were many references and in-jokes between this film and the 80’s original, the best of which was Rusty’s almost direct communication with the audience when he states, “this vacation will be nothing like the original,” (meaning the one he took as a child, but actually referring to the first movie). “Besides, the original vacation had a boy and a girl as the children, and we clearly have two boys instead…” VACATION also has a ridiculous car called the Tartan Prancer, dubbed the Honda of Albania, complete with insane GPS, which the family embarks in on their journey; the “girl in the red Ferrari” makes an, albeit brief and abrupt, appearance; and Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo reprise their roles as Rusty’s parents for a short period towards the end of movie.


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The film also has a couple of other big names in small supporting roles, such as Chris Hemsworth (THOR) as Audrey’s well endowed husband, Charlie Day (HORRIBLE BOSSES) as a suicidal rafting instructor, and Norman Reedus (THE WALKING DEAD television series) as a crazy truck driver with an unhealthy interest in young children. All of these stars were brilliant in their roles.

It has been nearly 20 years since the last National Lampoon’s film VEGAS VACATION hit cinemas. With such a long time since movies, it was always going to be an uphill battle for VACATION to match the fandom of the originals. Though the previous films received increasingly poorer critical reception, they have since passed into cult standing in a “so bad they are good” kind of way. True to form, critics have panned VACATION for the most part as a weak nostalgic misadventure with none of the soul of the original NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION. On that point, I have to agree. However, as a stand-alone comedy of a road trip gone wrong I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Forget trying to compare this to the past, and just enjoy it for what it is: great acting, great story, beautiful scenic shots, and a heavy does of appealing comedy make this film a must see for anyone looking for a good time and an easy laugh.


3 and a Half Pops