Vacation is a continuation of the 1983 film franchise National Lampoon’s Vacation. That’s the father and this is the son. In fact, it rehashes the same premise with the next generation and fresh actors – beside the returning Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. The Griswolds lay siege to America on a hapless journey to the theme-park Wally Land, which Rusty (Ed Holmes) didn’t get to visit first time around.
The original films starred Chevy Chase as the well-meaning and bearable-from-a-distance American stereotype, whereas Ed Holmes lacks the unselfconscious mannerisms that made Chase’s character so enjoyable.
The great thing about Rusty’s father was that he didn’t have any thoughts or feelings, so the viewer could emotionally disengage. Holmes’ comedic style is a mixture of Dax Shepard from Employee of the Month and Jon Cryer from Two and Half Men. Occasionally he manages a Chase-esque face scrunch but he is too emotional for a feel-good movie.
Debbie Griswold (Christina Applegate) looks less beaten up than in the original and, whilst she puts up with her husband’s unreasonable outbursts pragmatically, she also puts her foot down when needed.
Although the film invites comparison, it seems unfair to not judge Vacation on its own merits. So much has changed in 30 years: the kids still fight but interestingly behave within their comfort zones, rather than conforming to the sibling’s age hierarchy. The more socially able but glib younger brother bullies the academically brighter, more gentle older brother, which can be interpreted as a metaphor rubbishing the idea that Americans are categorically the abusers and immigrants categorically the victims.
The film-makers, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, are trying to recreate the ethos of the 80s which National Lampoon embodied – a world of carefree youth, forgiveness and where people look forward rather than back. People’s lives weren’t ruined by one mistake, in a country which has multiple personalities when it comes to sex.
Vacation has a crude sense of humour, more slapstick than observational lampoon, involving sex on the Four States Monument, rim-jobs, and a dip into a sewage dump. It’s a teenage movie, hence the 15 certificate.
Though plenty will relish the idea of Americans rubbing excrement all over themselves, there’s more to Vacation than that. Instead of an exercise in humility, this is America coming to terms with itself. It’s actually saying, you know what? For all their foibles, we quite like the Griswolds – we quite like ourselves.
The editorial unit
Vacation is released nationwide on 21st August 2015.
Watch the trailer for Vacation here: