Vacation (3 stars)


credit: Hopper Stone

The Griswolds are back for this solidly funny reboot / sequel, with Ed Helms

Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms), the now grown son of 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation is obliged, in meta-deference to this beloved cinematic predecessor, to reassure both audiences and fellow Griswolds that his embarkation on the same cross-country trip of his youth will be one that 'stands on its own.' Shock and horror: he’s actually halfway right. Taking the helm for the first time, writing partners Jonathan M Goldstein and John Francis Daley (Horrible Bosses) have unveiled a true 21st century makeover; the kind that would make even Mean Girl Regina George mad-jealous.

Discarded is the National Lampoon tag and its crueller, shrewder sensibilities; this Vacation plays its notes broader, more earnestly. Rusty shares the undefeatable optimism of his father, the legendary Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase – who cameos here alongside Beverly D’Angelo), yet Clark embodied American fatherhood at its most ruthless. That bourgeois desperation to impress and for superficial perfection, driven to the point of complete psychosis: from the theme park hold-up with a BB gun, to the dead aunt strapped to the roof of the car.

Rusty represents an American fatherhood now less obsessed with patriarchal control than with the anxiety-ridden pressure of achieving real happiness for themselves and their families. It's infinitely less subversive, and yet Rusty’s lack of egomania feels refreshingly different. Withholding him from the comedic centrepiece, Vacation fields its jokes across the broader scope of the ensemble piece: equal laughs are gleaned from wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) as she struggles against the temptations of a rugged Texan (Chris Hemsworth), and from their sons (played by Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins) and their epic battle for sibling supremacy.

It’s a shame that such rigorous modernising must resort to a raft of contemporary clichés: from the dubstep-pumping college party (a poor riff on Bad Neighbours) to a reliance on crude language, as unwisely funnelled through the mouth of a prepubescent boy. Yet, while collective nostalgia means Vacation is already likely to have been convicted of some unfathomable treason, it’s a fate undeserved for a film that stands up as a solidly funny summer comedy.

General release from Fri 21 Aug.


  • 3 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 1h 39min
  • 15
  • Directed by: John Francis Daley/Jonathan M Goldstein
  • Written by: John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein
  • Cast: Ed Helms, Chris Hemsworth, Charlie Day
  • UK release: 13 November 2015

Rusty Griswold (Helms), the now-grown son of the repeatedly-vacationing Griswold clan, is determined to show his family a good time. Broad but refreshing reboot of the franchise, with plenty of solid laughs, especially from Applegate as Rusty's wife Debbie, although there's too much reliance on crude language.