James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
Cole Clay // Film Critic
Nothing is held sacred today in film. Reboots, rehashes, and remakes crowd our megaplexes, but not without the unheard complaints of thousands, if not billions, of anonymous arm chair film executives on the comment boards. There’s no point in voicing your disgust with the latest reboot of whatever 80’s property you watched as a kid because it’s just an inevitability now. And hot of the presses (some of them are actually good), so just embrace the changing of the tides and maybe you will be surprised. Take for example, the reboot of VACATION. It’s a remake that nobody saw coming, or were asking for; it’s really just an excuse to make a quick buck and get some R rated laughs– everybody wins.
Directed/penned by FREAKS AND GEEKS alum John Francis Daly (who is a stellar comedy writer in his own right) and Jonathan M. Goldstein, the VACATION remake is so foul, grotesque and mean-spirited that it works. Their style of humor holds zero reverence for any topic our politically correct society holds dear. The (sort-of) sequel finds regional airline pilot Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) fed up with the complacency of his life and wants to take a road trip with his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), and their two sons, James (Skyler Gisando) and Kevin (Stelle Stebbins), to the infamous Walley World, 2,600 miles away. Now, just sit back and watch terrible hijinks ensue.
They picked the perfect occupation for Rusty; not only is there irony with the road trip aspect of the film – being a regional pilot gives him just enough clout to have a nice suburban McMansion – but he’s still a push over in nearly every facet of his life. This was the kind of social commentary that was so prevalent in Harold Ramis’ 1983 original chiefly seen in talks of Ronald Reagan and Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid).
But, all you want to know is VACATION funny? The answer is yes; it’s very funny. Daly and Goldstein pack in a little meta humor mocking the fact that there is a remake. Luckily, they drop that act fairly quick. This is THE filthiest film of the year in terms of its style of humor. While the original might have had a family friendly core despite the R rating, the remake, or sequel (depending how you look at it), has no room in its tone for Kumbaya. Along the way, the Grizzwolds meet a strange cast of characters— the Christy Brinkley role is there briefly, and there’s extended cameos. Keep a look out for Chris Hemsworth who’s doing his best impression of a right-winged, red blooded local Texas weatherman. And, of course, it’s no surprise that Clark and Ellen (Chevy Chase and Beverly D’ Angelo) appear while running a tragically miserable B&B.
The core casting works with the broad comedic rhythms, especially Helms who is a veteran actor at this point. But Applegate is the one in VACATION that pulls the comedic load, playing the “straight-man;” although, she gets her moments to ham it up. The two brothers have a dynamic where the younger bullies the older. This could have easily gone stale, but the pencil-necked Gisando’s angsty facial expressions keep the bit working well.
VACATION isn’t a perfect remake, but the original wasn’t perfect either. The toilet humor is unabashedly committed to its premise that it allows the comedy to work. Rather than apologizing for its mere existence, it embraces the absurdity and for that packing up to Walley World again is worth the trip.
VACATION opens tonight at participating theaters and Wednesday everywhere.