2015 / Directors. Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
VACATION '15 has been a long time coming and I've been one of those fans whose been screaming for a fifth instalment in the series (and no, COUSIN EDDIE'S ISLAND ADVENTURE doesn't count). It was obvious some time ago that Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo had passed the point of no return and the time was nigh to revitalise the franchise...without spitting on it. And so here it is, a whole new VACATION, picking up where the others left off.
RUSTY GRISWOLD is a chip off the old block and when he realises that his family is bored with the same old cabin-at-the-lake routine he decides to surprise them with a cross country road trip to Wallyworld, the same vacation he took with his family back in 1983. Right from the get go it is established that this isn't a remake and they make a cheeky reference to the previous films that ought to put the cynics in their box. What follows is a super fun and consistently hilarious adventure that recaptures the spirit of the original film while maintaining it's own identity.
The world has changed since the 80s and cinematic comedy is not what it used to be. The magic of VACATION is that it harks back to the essence of the previous films, maintaining an innocent and frivolous naivety while injecting an appropriate amount of lowbrow humour to keep it edgy and in check with today's puerile standards. It's important to remember that the first two instalments were quite salacious for their time and featured some questionable material of their own.
The casting is superb. Ed Helms is a natural successor to Chevy Chase and fills those big shoes effortlessly. He embodies the same lovable awkwardness and provides the glue that binds everything else together. Christina Applegate is a stunning and brilliant piece of casting. There is no question in my mind that she outshines all of Beverly D'Angelo's previous turns and her place in the story is far more weighty than D'Angelo's ever was. She's also much more of a pro-active character and doesn't sit on the sidelines, which is something fresh and necessary for revitalising the series. The rest of the cast is good too with various familiar faces popping up here and there and each having their moment of comedy goodness.
The film had me from the first frame. Of course I was a fan boy from the start and was fully prepared to be more forgiving than I needed to be. Thankfully the movie just works and there was no generosity required on my part. The opening sequence is hilarious and had me in stitches and from then on just about every comical set-up hit the mark (the use of Harry Nilsson's “Without You” provided one of the most perfectly executed moments of comedy that I've seen in ages).
Of course it would be remiss of me not to mention Clark and Ellen's appearance in the film. I was so thrilled to know that Chase and D'Angelo were reprising their roles, but sadly they bring the movie back down a few pegs. It pains me to say that the movie would have been so much stronger without them. Not only is their appearance a token gesture but it serves no purpose at all. By the time they appear on screen most audiences will already be convinced the movie is a legitimate continuation and not a remake and the reminder of original characters is not necessary (you should check out their previous appearance in HOTEL HELL VACATION... that's where they should have left it).
With that qualm aside VACATION is a beauty. It is written and directed with a love for the series and a strong sense of nostalgia. It fits in chronologically and will hopefully lead to another couple of instalments. Rusty Griswold.... fuck yeah!