It’s equal-opportunity embarrassment and shenanigans in Vacation, a funny if not familiar and gross-out lark about the ever-traveling Griswolds.
“This new vacation will stand on its own,” declares Rusty, winking about this franchise installment that can be a reboot or reimagining or sequel depending on the time of day. He’s right though: no one will confuse it will the original film starring Chevy Chase some 30 years ago, but this Vacation still has charm and laugh-out-loud moments, however momentarily they last.
Powered by the earnestness and likeability of its four exceptionally-cast leads, Vacation warily executes an dangerous tight rope walk, not just between the new and old, the innovative and the nostalgic, but between easy jokes and more elaborate gags.
The writing and directing pair of John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein certainly enjoy the gross-out gags, but it they don’t rely on that; though vomit, feces, and intestines do make separate appearances. At least the film utilizes pratfalls and physically comedy too. Some jokes have long set-ups; a few are fueled by zany supporting characters; others are simply in the timing of the perfectly on-beat delivery of Ed Helms and Christina Applegate.
The plot is the same; stuck in doing the same thing year after year, Rusty Griswold (played yet again by a different actor, but for the first time as an adult) opts for the family trek that was so memorable when he was young. And so the new clan, including an older brother who loves guitars and poetry, and a younger one with a foul mouth and penchant for bullying, cram into a foreign car that might be the funniest running joke of the entire film.
There are random hysterics, but with this awkward vehicle, a massive fob with questionable symbols, a pair of gas tanks, and a GPS system with an irate voice offer some of the more delightful jokes.
It’s the genuine nature of the family that keeps things moving, even when drifting deeply into the absurd (the pair of young brothers would have made Jurassic World so much better). In a world of remakes and restarts and alternate offerings and so many franchises, Vacation is a welcome departure. It’s no exotic journey, but it’s better than staying at home.