Kyle J. Steenblik

Vacation is Not the Family Disaster We Expected

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3 stars out of 5Vacation
Directed by: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
vacation advance screeningWritten by: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Starring: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Leslie Mann, Chris Hemsworth
Running time: 99 minutes
Rated R for crude and sexual content and language throughout, and brief graphic nudity

Vacation is not the great comedy of the year, or even the summer, while many of the jokes are solid, most are cheap laughs.  I don’t want to disparage a cheap laugh, but I would rather the joke earn a deep uncontrollable laugh than a reactionary guffaw. As a whole, it was gimmicky, and unfortunately had a dreadful spark of desperation beneath the surface that drove the film forward regardless of the poor logic behind the storytelling, resulting in a heartless caned off-brand comedy movie.  If you take Vacation as a collection of vaguely related jokes and gags with no narrative driving them, the film works.  On the other hand, if you expect a plot based comedy where the humor is the natural consequence of the action, this film will disappoint and likely bore you.  This is something of a pet peeve I have when it comes to comedic films.  I believe, quite strongly, that sketch comedy does not make good movies.  If you want to make a good movie, start with a good story, Vacation starts with a handful of funny ideas or jokes, and then haphazardly constructs a story to set up each punchline.  Yet, I cannot call this a complete failure by writing and directing team John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, I would not even call it a partial failure, just poor execution of a hastily constructed commercial comedy reboot.  In other words, it was a bad idea that appeared to be developed with little affection, for maximum efficiency.  After watching this, I cannot help but think Daley, and Goldstein used this film as a dry run in the director’s chair before, and a paycheck, I cannot hold that against them, but I can blame them for turning out an inferior product, and that is all this is, generic brand comedy movie food-product.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) is taking his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate), and children James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) on an ill-conceived cross country road trip to Wally World.  Rusty, and airline pilot, has determined the best possible way to travel from Chicago to southern California is by a ridiculous car that might be impossible to operate.  Along the way, hilarity ensues as the Griswolds run into one wacky problem after another.

Vacation is not really a bad movie, it is light entertainment, easily digested, discarded, and disremembered.  There may even be scenes that are worth watching, Charlie Day’s short-lived scene as a river guide in the Grand Canyon, for example, or the relationship between James and Kevin, or maybe the best part, the opening and closing credits.  This is a funny movie, but it is not so funny that anyone should rush to the theater to watch it, but if you find yourself in need of a light laugh, it is worth a look.

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