Vacation Review: Kissed by a Tartan Prancer

Chad White

The Honda of the National Lampoon series.

Let’s face facts: a movie continuing off of a series you grew up with will never be “as good as the originals.” That’s the story of the entertainment landscape. For once, let’s not compare a new rendition – disguised as a reboot – to the previous entries in a 1980’s series. This is a new family, kind of, in an old setting. Following his adventures with his family, young Rusty Griswold has now become old Rusty Griswold, a pilot for Econo-Air who loves his wife and sons with all of his heart. He loves them so much in fact that he decides to take them on the vacation that shaped him into the family loving man he is today. The plot is simple and straightforward as the Griswold’s make their way across the country to Walley World having numerous encounters that would break up any other family.

Ed Helms takes on the lead with Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, and Steele Stebbins playing his ungrateful family. Everyone from the main characters to the cameos perform adequately, seemingly having fun along the arduous journey. Taken at face value, this movie is stacked in terms of casting. Comedy veterans Chevy Chase and Beverley D’Angelo also return, if only for five minutes, to help usher their son in the right direction. With this being a road trip movie, there are several stops along the way. These deviations make up a bulk of the movie’s gags as the main driving bits are dry and unengaging. References to the previous films are also prevalent throughout but the script tends not to dwell on the past for too long. Actually, a cliché but entertaining set of dialogue has the family questioning the meta narrative of treading old ground in a reboot delved from an old series. It harkens back to The Muppets Most Wanted opening song about the sequel not being as good as the original.

And, really, this movie is not as good as the first National Lampoon Vacation. However, that was made at a time where those types of movies were prevalent. Families would go to the movies and actually spend time with one another. There could be complaints about this not being a family movie; about the original “pushing the envelope” for the time. It’s a different decade, obviously, and families don’t spend time with each other now. This is an R-rated romp across the country meant for adults to enjoy, not for you to take your kids to. Look at it like this: show your kids the originals and, when they’re old enough, lead them to the reboot/sequel. Vacation is part of a new series for a modern age. Don’t expect to experience the same emotions felt when the first one entered the scene.

Should you watch Vacation?

I liked it enough to laugh at a lot of the jokes. I went in expecting something funny, not a fifth movie in a series. While it would’ve been nice to get a nice John Hughes-esque movie in an age where teen coming of age films are relegated to indie status, it was equally pleasurable to experience a 2015 version of a 1983 classic.

Notes

  • There are four other sequels in the National Lampoon Vacation series. I don’t know why people are picking on this one. Vegas Vacation and Christmas Vacation 2 are insanely terrible and even the first Christmas Vacation can’t really hold a candle to the original.
  • Shut up about nostalgia.
  •  Michael Pena appears here too. That guy is everywhere.
  • Pena, Kaitlin Olsen, Nick Kroll and Tim Heidecker are so great here as officers from the four corners. That scene was a clever piece of writing.
  • Leslie Mann and Chris Hemsworth are married here and I could watch them make out forever.
  • Hemsworth’s oversized penis.
  • Chevy Chase and Beverley D’Angelo share one short scene meant to get Rusty in believing in the vacation philosophy again. However, they’re about as useful as other cameoed characters.
  • Charlie Day plays a rafting guide named Chad. He’s such a sad human being. Why, Chad, why?
  • The youngest son, Kevin, is a piece of shit. I would’ve hit him a long time ago. The way he speaks to his older brother puts me in such a temper.
  • “Holiday Road” and “Kissed By A Rose” are used so well here. Over the 90 or so minutes, we hear these songs way too often but they work in every case.