“…was everything I expected: an unfunny romp through the streets of Las Vegas…”
Last night, continuing on with my “Vacation series” watch-through, I watched Vegas Vacation. You’ll have to excuse me if this review ends up being on the shorter side, I’m just not sure how many ways I can say that this movie was bad. Vegas Vacation finds the ever-loveable Griswold family taking a trip to Las Vegas. When there, things go wrong; but then everything is fine by the end of the movie. Ta-da! I just saved you ninety minutes.
The first thing that struck me when watching Vegas Vacation was the fact that every character had seemingly developed brain damage since the last time we saw them. Instead of being the well-meaning buffoon that Clark Griswold normally is, he is introduced in one of the dumbest ways possible; driving down the road reading a pamphlet, narrowly avoiding about ten different accidents. A local biker yells out “Hey Mr. Griswold” as if to tell us that this is a normal occurrence in this otherwise quiet neighbourhood. Now I’m not saying that Clark Griswold is a genius, but he hasn’t made us believe that he could do anything this stupid yet which makes this scene feel sorely out of place. We then meet Ellen Griswold who, for some reason, is cooking while wearing a dress that barely goes past her waist. Get it? She’s hot and he’s dumb! How did they end up together?! *Cue laugh track*. The two kids come to greet their father and hear about this wonderful excursion that he has planned. There is a brief joke about the children being re-cast yet again (“I can hardly recognize you two anymore”), and we are off to Las Vegas. When in Vegas, the jokes are exactly what you would assume. Clark does something stupid, the kids look embarrassed, and Ellen tries to rectify the situation; cousin Eddie is there too because, why not? The main issue that I had with Vegas Vacation was that it felt uninspired. These characters were just going through the motions, moving from one punchline to the next, and it was obvious that not everybody’s heart was in it. There was also this plot-point that revolved around the kids not being old enough to gamble, but they looked like they were thirty years old. Not only would those kids not have been carded, but even if they had been they were definitely older than twenty-one. I don’t understand why they couldn’t just cast younger, or at least people who looked younger. I understand that you can’t have twelve year-olds running around for whatever reason, but at least choose someone who doesn’t look like they worry about taxes on a daily basis. Vegas Vacation has a couple of really weird scenes that seem like they were left in after some re-writes. These scenes revolve around the idea that family comes first. The first is when Ellen confronts Clark saying that “The only time we’re together as a family is when you are either going into, or leaving a casino”. The sentiment is there, but the problem is that it is completely false. Before this is said we get to see the Griswold family hang out at Siegfried and Roy and Wayne Newton shows, as well as visit the Hoover Dam and Cousin Eddie. It is clear to me that they have been doing a lot of stuff as a family, but to create this bullshit conflict Ellen has to completely forget about all of that stuff. The next scenario comes when Clark is at the end of his rope. Twenty thousand dollars in the hole, he is walking down the strip with Eddie wondering what he is going to tell Ellen. It’s just then that he realizes: money is not important, but family is. What? I mean, again the sentiment is there but you are still twenty thousand dollars in debt. It would be something else if Ellen was the one to forgive you by saying that money isn’t as important as family, but for some reason you’re the one to come to that conclusion. It just didn’t sit right with me.
The most disappointing thing about Vegas Vacation was that there were a few opportunities that I saw to improve the movie. Just to preface this: these ideas might have made the movies worse for everyone else, but I would have loved it if these changes were made. First of all, why not have Eddie be rich? You spent the entire series hammering in the fact that Eddie is a redneck mooch, so why didn’t you turn that on its head for this movie? That would have been a joke in itself. Eddie gets the land in Las Vegas because of the plate in his head, and he discovers that he is really good at gambling. He turns what little money his family had into an enormous fortune, and now lives in a giant mansion with servants and his numerous children. He could have still been the same old Eddie, but you could have flipped it and had Clark resent him even more. Here is Clark, getting his ass beat at every turn in the casino, but Eddie comes along and puts in one dollar in a slot machine and wins a thousand dollars. Essentially they could have cut Rusty’s story and given it to Eddie. Another thing that would have improved the movie (in my opinion) would be a darker ending. Let’s be real here, Vegas Vacation isn’t a funny movie; so why not go really dark with it? Clark, at the end of his rope, decides to end his life. It could have been a gritty look at the world of gambling addictions, and you could have given the film some fucking substance. I understand that this idea is more outlandish than the first, but you have to understand that I was so bored while watching Vegas Vacation that I was praying for anything to happen. The way the movie ends currently is a real kick in the nuts too. I’ve already mentioned that the Griswolds always get out of whatever situation they have placed themselves in, but no ending is worse than this one. The ending of Vegas Vacation is like the epitome of a deus ex machina ending. The writers couldn’t even stomach letting these idiots leave Vegas empty-handed, they had to write in this bullshit ending wherein they get back all of the money Clark lost and then some. I mean, for christ’s sake Rusty won four cars why didn’t they just sell them? It at least would have made more sense than a dying man deciding to give his winning ticket to Clark. I honestly don’t know why I care so much about this because the rest of the movie wasn’t even good enough to warrant a better ending.
I would like to say that Vegas Vacation was disappointing, but anyone with a brain could clearly see the series going downhill (save for Christmas Vacation). Really, Vegas Vacation was everything I expected: an unfunny romp through the streets of Las Vegas, and an ending that acts as a reset button for the characters.
I give Vegas Vacation a D