“… I can’t help but wonder what Vacation could have been had all of the rest of its parts gotten the same level of care as a few of its jokes.”
In an attempt to resurrect a firmly dead franchise, the Griswolds are back and this time it’s still not that funny. When he overhears his wife talk about how boring her life is, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) decides to follow in his father’s footsteps and take his family on a road trip to Walley World. Along the way they do a lot of stuff. I’m going to level with you, much like the other films in the series writing a synopsis for Vacation is going to be next to impossible.
Vacation starts out with a montage of “vacation” pictures set to the classic song Holiday Road. I put vacation in quotes because these pictures are internet staples, and in no way unique; also, half of them don’t even look vacation related. After this terribly unfunny slideshow, I buckled up for what I assumed would be worse than torture; and at points it came close. First of all, Vacation felt really long. I’m not sure what it was but the movie seems to drag endlessly toward the end. I guess it is a mixture of the film at times trying to be a “real” movie, with character development and stuff, but me not giving a shit about the characters. The writing in Vacation is about as basic as you could get. None of the characters presented have any depth or originality to them, they are merely husks used to deliver punchlines when it is necessary. The plot is also pretty basic, only outlining a start and end point, allowing for whatever shenanigans the writers want in the middle. Probably the most annoying thing about Vacation was the realization that most of the jokes were spoiled in the trailer. I know that people are starting to get sick of other people complaining about trailers, but this complaint is valid (in my opinion, I guess). Vacation is a comedy movie with very little depth, that means that pretty much every scenario is just setting up a punchline. Comedy works because it is unexpected. It essentially shocks us which causes us to laugh for some reason (I think, I’m not a scientist). Anyway, the problem with Vacation’s trailer is that a lot of the jokes were already spoiled. That means, for instance when the Griswold family are looking for a hot spring and they start to swim in it, I already know that it is a sewage run-off. You spent that joke in the trailer, and now your five minutes of set-up is completely wasted on me. The jokes aren’t really funny enough to laugh at twice, so I found myself staring stone-faced at the screen many times throughout the film. Another thing that ruined a few of the jokes was the gratuitous amount of terrible CGI. I don’t know what it is with comedy movies today, but they all seem to rely on these really elaborate set pieces that that can’t afford so they just add it in post. I can think of countless examples of comedies doing this, and Vacation is another one to add to the list. Nothing takes me out of a movie faster than seeing something that looks like it is from a video game from 2006. It’s almost like filmmakers forgot that the human mind is a very powerful tool. It is the same thing in horror films; the less you show the more effective it will be. If you allude to the fact that a man is falling off of a cliff, I can think up a scenario that is absolutely hilarious to me. The problem is that when you show me a terrible CGI man falling off a cliff, I just roll my eyes. Not only would leaving things up to the audience’s imagination save money, but it would also improve your movie substantially.
One thing that surprised me when watching Vacation was the amount of recognizable faces that made an appearance. There was a moment (somewhere in the middle of the film) where every side-character was a famous comedian. I mean you had Charlie Day, Kaitlin Olsen, Nick Kroll, a woman wearing Beverly D’Angelo’s face, and Tim Heidecker to name a few. The film then ends with another slideshow, this time of terribly photoshopped pictures of the characters in compromising situations. You know, I can shit on this movie for days and not run out of material but the fact of the matter is that it made me laugh quite a few times. Despite a majority of the jokes being spoiled in the trailer, and terrible CGI making me roll my eyes, there were quite a few moments that were absolutely hilarious. I think making a movie funny is an accomplishment on its own, but I can’t help but wonder what Vacation could have been had all of the rest of its parts gotten the same level of care as a few of its jokes.
Ultimately Vacation is pretty disappointing. Despite it having to fight an uphill battle, it did have some genuinely funny moments in it. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie was just as bad as you would expect.
I give Vacation a C