Vacation (2015) *1/2
I was fully prepared to love “Vacation,” a sequel 32 years in the making. As a National Lampoon fan (both the magazine and many of its film comedies), I trusted they would take care of the beloved “Vacation” franchise; they did not.
With Ed Helms as a grown Rusty Griswold (they should have cast Anthony Michael Hall), and Christina Applegate as his long-suffering wife, I held out some hope; both Applegate and Helms have proven comedy chops.
The plot doesn’t matter, only to say that the grown Rusty is trying to connect with his family by retracing the Griswold’s fateful 1983 family trip to the fictional theme park Wallyworld. There were a few (a very few) genuinely funny moments, but the tone of the movie was so grating, depressing and offensive that it took any joy out of what should have been a great re-make.
For starters, there’s more misplaced pedophilia humor per frame than any movie I can recall having ever seen. It’s very unsettling to hear Helms’ character discuss at length “man-boy love.” Not funny.
The constant barrage of foul language from an 11-year-old, while restrained and funny in “Talladega Nights,” became tedious and jarring in “Vacation” (2015). Even Chevy Chases and Beverly D’Angelo’s cameos were wasted, much like the 99 minutes spent sitting through this ugly mess.
What do those stars mean?
* Really, really, really bad. Don’t bother.
** Pretty bad, with one or more redeeming scenes.
*** Pretty good, but maybe not great, worth seeing for most
**** Really great, a winning combination of story, casting, and directing
***** The rarest gem, an all-around perfect motion picture