30 years after his family vacation to Walley World, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) feels like his family has grown bored of their typical family vacations and each other. On a whim, Rusty decides to take his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and their two sons, James and Kevin (Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins) from Chicago, all the way to Walley World to relive the journey he and his family had. But it appears history does in fact repeat itself when the Griswolds find themselves running into one antic and disaster to another.
The sequel/reboot to the original film is basically the same story. However, it is very much aware of itself. As a matter of fact, Helms’ character indirectly refers to the film saying that it won’t be as good as the first vacation, but it could stand on its own, along with the fact that his kids say they never even heard of the “first vacation”. This already garners it points for being aware that it’s not trying to top the original, more so just trying to pay tribute to it. While it certainly doesn’t even come close to the original film, this updated version does pay a nice tribute. It has some nice nods to the original film and also brings back Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as Clark and Ellen as well as Rusty’s sister Audrey (played by Leslie Mann). This version features many good laughs, though nothing gut-busting. As a standalone film, Vacation does what it was meant to do. Some of the laughs work really well, some of them not-so-much. The latter ones are easy to sense in that they were trying too hard to be funny, one scene involving Audrey’s husband Stone (played by Chris Hemsworth) having a huge penis. It’s not funny, it’s just awkward. Though I will say that Chris Hemsworth shows here that he his more than just Thor. He actually has a pretty good knack for comedy and I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing him do more comedic roles. Ed Helms is basically the same character he plays in every film, but despite that he does a good job of playing the goofy family man. Even the more sentimental moments of them, Helms does a fine job of selling it and making you feel for him. To me however, the one that stood out the most out of all the performances was Christina Applegate. She has the perfect comedic timing in her scenes and gets some of the more humorous moments and lines. Applegate plays the role of the tired housewife with her inner college girl trying to break out perfectly, while still trying to show her sweet and nurturing side. The two younger actors who play Helms and Applegate’s sons also bring in some good, though often annoying, moments and performances. They take sibling rivalry to a higher level and some of the moments are funny, even if the characters themselves are ones you want to kick to the curb. Along with the laughs, the movie does feature quite a bit of heart that give the story a little more depth than just the slapstick humor.
Vacation is a film that knows what it is. It’s not meant to be better than the original, but more of a reminder of what we loved about the original. As a standalone film it has plenty of laughs to keep you entertained, and sentimental moments for those softies who enjoy moments like that. The cherry on top are the great nods to the original as well as the fine performances from the cast.