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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Monday, April 18, 2016

Movie Review - Vacation

Vacation (2015)
Starring Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Leslie Mann, Chris Hemsworth, Beverly D'Angelo, Ron Livingston,  and Chevy Chase
Directed by Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley
***This film is currently available on HBO Now***

Although I can't remember for sure, my first foray into cinematic "almost nudity" may very well have been the original 1983 version of National Lampoon's Vacation.  I probably saw it for the first time several years after its release as an eight, nine, or ten year-old and that image of Christie Brinkley cruising down the highway -- and then later in the hotel pool -- never quite left my cinematic memory.  (Somehow, the possibility of potentially glimpsing Brinkley's breasts was inherently more invigorating to the young me than actually seeing those of Beverly D'Angelo in the film.)  Granted, I haven't seen the original Chevy Chase-starring film in probably close to a decade, but it held up alright upon my last viewing.  So when the 2015 "reboot"/sequel starts up with Lindsey Buckingham singing the iconic-to-me "Holiday Road," nostalgia immediately set in, and while Vacation can't really hold a candle to the original, there are plenty of laughs that make this one a better flick than I was expecting.

Teenage Rusty Griswold is now all grown up (and played by Ed Helms) living with a family of his own in the Midwest.  Rather than head to their typical cabin in Michigan for a summer vacation, Rusty decides to shake things up by taking his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and two kids James and Kevin (Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins) to the California amusement park staple Wally World -- the very destination coveted by Rusty's father Clark (Chevy Chase) in the 1983 original.  Along the way, chaos ensues -- multiple times -- as seems fitting for the Griswold clan.

I understand that many of the comedy sequences in Vacation overstay their welcome, but a lot of the jokes within those extended moments land successfully.  The success is due in part to the Griswold family quartet at the center of the action.  Helms, Applegate, Gisondo, and Stebbins all succeed at capturing the Griswold humor and heart that made the original so successful.  They hit the jokes they need to hit with gusto and provide a nice center for the action going on around them.

While writer-director duo Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley don't quite capture the same heart that Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo (who also make cameo appearances here) achieve in the first film, they at least provide Helms and Applegate a solid base.  I realize that my enjoyment of this isn't shared by the majority of critics, but even through its faults, Vacation proves to be decent, funny, and well acted.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

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