Studies have shown what you may only acknowledge in secret: that a vacation often ends up stressing you more. National Lampoon’s Vacation series, starting with the original film in 1983, has made a success of that. In this age of competitive social-media documenting of those vacations, the pressure of a perfect montage is even more.
What also lay at the heart of the Vacation series was a family, with all its warts, seeking to stay together. Despite Helms and Applegate playing the parents, the latest Griswolds never seem a family one would root for.
The idea to have a younger brother bully his elder one might be original, but Kevin (Stebbins) isn’t just mean he is also physically abusive enough to call out for therapy. Not to mention that his verbal diabtribe is a victim of the Censor’s overzealous scissors, leaving us with pain without the gain.
The target of his assaults, including a polybag tied tightly over the head, is elder brother James (Gisondo), who attracts the worst stereotypical insults for preferring guitar to guns, and poems to puns.
If father Rusty (Helms) and mother Debbie (Applegate) are harried, it is about other things such as the Paris holiday they can never have, and the Albanian car that he decides is the best bet for a 2,500 mile road trip to ‘Walley World’ in Los Angeles. The car comes with an electric outlet, and a remote with a Swastika symbol on it (both gags surprisingly left unexplored). However, sure enough, the car is the star of most of the trip, which includes a dip in a pond with human faeces, and Rusty ending up with the entrails of a cow all over him.
The funniest part doesn’t involve any body part though but a broken heart. By the end of it, you may even find yourself cheering for the Griswolds. However, in this case the journey may not be worth the destination.
Directed by John Francis Daley, Jonathan M Goldstein
Starring Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann