Vacation review

There are probably people around today who think that Chevy Chase is just that grumpy old dude who used to be on the TV show Community. Well, back in the day (ie, when your parents were children), Chase was a pretty big star. He got his start in a popular American comedy TV sketch comedy show called Saturday Night Live, then moved into films with hits such as Caddyshack, Fletch, Spies Like Us and Three Amigos. But it was the original National Lampoon Vacation films and his role as Clark Griswold that Chase is probably best know for now (apart from Community, that is).

And here we have a fifth entry in the Vacation series (many are calling it a remake or a reboot, but they are wrong – it is simply a sequel). Chase is not the star of the show, as the film is more of a Vacation: The Next Generation affair. This time it's son Rusty's turn to take his family on a roadtrip to Walley World, and the usual chaos ensues. Helms is at the helm as Rusty, with the always-watchable and reliably funny Applegate as wife Debbie, but their two sons, James and Kevin – played by Gisondo and Stebbins – come close to stealing the film (although Hemsworth takes a pretty good stab at it himself). Stebbins in particular shines as the younger of the two, who bullies his older brother mercilessly and swears like a trooper.

Rusty works as a pilot for one of those horrid budget airlines, and he decides to revisit his childhood by taking his family on a cross-country drive from Chicago to California and that cheesey theme park rather than flying to Paris, which is where his wife would rather go. Well, anywhere really but that boring old cabin in Michigan they go to every year. So Rusty rents an Albanian SUV – which has two gas tanks, several rear-view mirrors, a pair of electric charger cords and a remote control with ridiculous symbols including a rabbit and a swastika – and the Griswolds hit the road. Of course, if you are at all familiar with the Vaation series, the family has many, many misadventures along the way: including rolling the car, being chased by a massive truck after accusing the driver of being a paedophile, finding out Debbie was a college drunkard and slut, bathing in a pool of raw sewage, and running out of fuel in the middle of the desert.

There a plenty of laughs to be had in this latest Vacation outing – loads of laughs, in fact – but it does lack the spark or the edge of the original. That's not to say it's not rude and crude – there is plenty of quite naughty stuff here to titter at. But it's not as clever as it should be, and some of the gags do tend to outstay their welcome (hello Mr Hemsworth and his massive apendage). And the filmmakers really did miss a trick by having Rusty played by just the one actor (although Helms is excellent in the role). If you recall the first four Vacations, the kids were played by different actors each time, most famously by Anthony Michael Hall as Rusty in the first one and Juliette Lewis as Audrey in the third (Mann stars as Audrey in this one). How much fun would it have been to have Rusty played by four different actors through the film, changing him in each act but with the family not letting on that anything is different? And it also would have been fun to have some of those original child actors pop up in cameos. Speaking of which, Chase and D'Angelo make what amounts to not much more than a cameo appearance, reprising Clark and Ellen Griswold, which is a shame – more of them would have been very welcome.

Still, Vacation is far from a disaster. It's a solid, funny and engaging revisit with the Griswolds. You certainly wouldn't want to go on a holiday with them, but they are not a bad bunch to spend an hour-and-a-half on the couch with.

EXTRAS: The featurette Return to Walley World (9:54), which chats with the cast and filmmakers about the Vacation legacy and takes a look behind the scenes; the featurette The Griswold Odyssey (18:23), more chats with cast and crew and a look behind the scenes at the making of the film; an amusing but all-too-short Gag Reel (1:32); and several Deleted Scenes (12:13).

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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