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Monday, August 17, 2015

Quick Review: Vacation

I saw Vacation a week ago, but didn't quite know how to feel about it. I know it comes from the National Lampoon series of films starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo as Clark and Ellen Griswold, but I've never seen any of them. I was aware of the general plot and a few of the jokes of the original. In the new one -- which is a combination of a remake, sequel and reboot, a tricky thing to pull off...wait, I have it: it's a resequeboot! -- Griswold son Rusty (Ed Helms) takes his wife (Christina Applegate, so good at comedy) and their sons on a road trip to Walley World in California, essentially recreating the trip he, sister Audrey and his parents took years before. So I decided to watch the original (unfortunately, just an edited version on basic cable) and compare and contrast. Maybe you may think that's unfair to the new film, because why shouldn't it be judged on its own merits? Well, too bad. My blog, my rules!

Many of the scenarios are basically the same. Both Griswold families have encounters with strangers that end up in their losing money and having their already-inferior vehicles wrecked, both include a stop to visit family, both feature ongoing encounters during the trip with young women. But there are tweaks: for example, while Clark gets attention from a bombshell (Christie Brinkley) in a convertible, in the new film it's Rusty's shy older son James (Skyler Gisondo, who's actually pretty good) who is infatuated with a girl his own age. BTW, the gag that involves a new version of Brinkley's drive in the convertible is brilliant. Too bad it was given away in the trailers.

For me, the new Vacation usually, though not by a large margin, fell a little short of the original in terms of plot. Still, the new one started more slowly but got stronger during the second half. One major failure that lowers my grade a bit: both Chase and D'Angelo appear near the end of the resequeboot (can we make my new word viral, please?) but he gets some funny stuff to do and plays a bit of a role in helping Rusty and family get to Walley World. She gets maybe a couple of inconsequential lines. I think one was "Oh, that's too bad." Tsk. Let's hope that in 30 years, when James Griswold takes his family on the very same trip, Christina Applegate gets more do to in her cameo. My grade: C-plus.

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