“You want to redo your vacation?” Christina Applegate asks Ed Helms, who plays Chevy Chase’s now grown-up son, Rusty.
“The new vacation will stand on its own,” comes Helms’ gag, and at this point we all laugh, knowing even the writers have given up five minutes in.
“I’m sure there will be plenty of differences,” he says.
It’s wishful thinking, particularly as 2015’s Vacation sees a clueless, dorky Dad pack his reluctant kids and long-suffering wife into a bad car, hoping a road trip to ‘Walley World’ will bring them all together.
In case you missed it, this is the exact plot of the 1983 film.
Unfortunately, what is different about the modern revamp is it has lost much of the heart and naïve charm of the original.
Helms plays the bumbling, goofball Dad we’ve become accustomed to watching lately through Phil Dunphy on Modern Family, but unlike Phil, Helms is not afforded the more subtle and relatable Dad missteps that really bring in the laughs.
Instead, the film’s opening scene sees pilot Helms repeatedly fall headfirst into the lap of a busty blonde plane passenger during turbulence. It’s pretty degrading stuff for the actor, who is actually very funny in The Office and The Hangover.
From then on, it’s your pretty stock-standard family road trip. You know, the kids accuse a random truck driver of being a paedophile, said trucker follows the family the entire 2000 miles and is revealed at the end (spoiler alert) to in fact be a paedophile. Cue laughter.
Christina Applegate is not her usual vibrant self, but isn’t given much to work with as restless and irritated wife Debbie. Similarly, the two young actors playing brothers James and Kevin do a satisfactory job, but James’ constant death threats to big brother Kevin go from funny to awkward about 10 minutes in.
A subtle highlight of the film is a visit to Helms’ sister’s house. Leslie Mann plays grown-up Audrey, now married to a ridiculously chiselled local weatherman (Australian hunk Chris Hemsworth).
Hemsworth sports Victoria’s Secret-worthy hair and a southern accent so on point you find yourself looking for a chink in the armour. But even his best jokes are overcooked – a theme plaguing the film.
So back on the road we go, and the vomiting, sex jokes and swear words are ramped up heavily – sometimes with a payoff, but often not.
By the time Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo cameo as the slightly porked-up and deranged grandparents, you’re begging the writers not to ruin the old movie, too.
If you have to give it credit for one thing, Vacation goes to great lengths to increase the crass factor of the original. A scene in which Helms discussed a particularly lewd sex act with his son caused a few groups of people to walk out of the screening.
Sure, you’ll laugh, but you won’t feel good about it after. One scene produces a type of giggle you can’t help but let out at the sheer ridiculousness of watching a family unknowingly swim through raw sewage, thinking it’s a natural hot spring.
If you go see Vacation, you might have a bit of fun. Just make sure you approach the film the way the writers did: knowing it wasn’t going to be worth much.