Here’s an Overview of all the Terrible Jokes in Vacation

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Griswolds back on the road for family trip in ‘Vacation’.

At a restaurant last weekend, I happened to remark to a waiter that the piped music seemed heavy on nineties Number Ones. “It gets the room excited,” he explained. “Twenty years later, people are happy to hear even songs they never used to like.” There’s wisdom in that.More than 30 years after his father took him on a road trip to the Walley World theme park in National Lampoon’s Vacation, Rusty Griswold is back with his own family-bonding plans in Vacation.You remember the Griswolds, a family made famous by director Harold Ramis, screenwriter John Hughes and stars Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo back in the early 1980s.

In 1983, moviegoers went on National Lampoon’s “Vacation” with Clark and Ellen Griswold and their two children, played by Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron. Nostalgia is aroused by recognition, not affection, and recognition is nonqualitative – past a certain age, any old thing sufficiently remembered will do. You know, the same franchise that helped turn Chevy Chase into a symbol of the 80’s and made Lyndsay Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” an iconic song. Well, their son Rusty (Ed Helms in the role originated by Anthony Michael Hall) and to a lesser extent daughter Audrey (Leslie Mann in the role originated by Dana Barron) are back. The doomed family trip is a gold mine of humor and obviously contributes to the enduring appreciation for the concept. “Vacation” replicates many of the story beats from the original: Walley World, a hot road-trip crush, a ridiculous vehicle.

Rusty, who is a pilot for regional airline Econoair (“We promise to win back your trust”), resolves to re-create the family cross-country trip to Walley World. Though the 1983 film spawned three sequels and a kitschy Old Navy ad, no installment has come close tp matching the pitch black-humored wit of the original. Rusty, his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate), and their sons James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) pile into their Tartan Prancer aka “The Honda of Albania” and hit the road for some much needed family bonding. For reasons that make no sense, he buys a fictional Albanian super-wagon of some sort with a GPS system that gets stuck speaking angry Korean (OK, this is a funny bit) to transport them. More than three decades later, Rusty is now a husband, father of two boys, regional pilot for a budget airline, resident of suburban Chicago and played by Ed Helms from “The Office,” “The Hangover” and “We’re the Millers.” He’s the go-to actor for a sympathetic doofus who wants to do the right thing but invariably does the wrong or cringe-worthy thing.

It has gross-out humor, including projectile vomiting, a potty-mouthed child with a bullying streak, a squalid motel and sewage bath, along with a dad who just wants to sing along to the radio with his family in his rented Albanian-made car and ride the Velociraptor with them at Walley World. Now we have a new Vacation: a hybrid sequel-reboot, in the fashion of the season, designed with four-quadrant savvy to be enjoyed by millennials in reminiscence and by a younger crowd anew. The eternal optimism and cheerful naivete that he brings to patriarch Rusty are endearing, if baffling, in the face of disaster, humiliation and other bodily horrors rained upon the Griswolds. Rusty, who tries to fix things by crossing out “vagina” and writing “penis,” dreams of taking the whole family for a ride on Walley World’s most famous attraction, the Velociraptor Roller Coaster.

Crazy Cousin Eddie is nowhere in sight but the Griswolds stop to see Rusty’s sister, Audrey (Leslie Mann), and her husband, Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth). Like his dad, Rusty isn’t particularly respected on the home front and finds himself disconnected from the kids. (You would feel that way too, if you came home and saw that the youngest kid wrote “I have a vagina” on his brother’s guitar.

Mishaps, marital revelations, near brushes with death and other disasters eventually push even the optimistic Rusty to wonder if Debbie is right when she says, “Can you just admit this was a mistake?” But the vacation yields all sorts of firsts, plus second chances and even some advice from the architects of the classic Griswold cross-country adventure. The movie does its best to trade off the original Vacation with renditions of Holiday Road, a reenactment of the famous Chevy Chase/Christie Brinkley scene, and a cameo from a familiar vehicle. The best parts of this film are when Helms puts his musical talent into earnestly singing Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose.” He plays the well-meaning buffoon well, but Helms lacks the hint of darkness that Chevy Chase brought to Clark Griswold. Although Ed Helms (The Hangover) is a solid comedic actor, comparisons are inevitable to original pater Clark (Chevy Chase) and they’re unlikely to be kind. Most of the laughs come by way of cameos from Chad (Charlie Day) the white water rafting guide (the second funniest scene in the movie), Rusty’s brother-in-law Stone (Chris Hemsworth), and a surprising cameo from The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus.

I suppose we have Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to thank for this attitude of winking, self-referential (and self-deprecating) cynicism: their take on 21 Jump Street made it possible for the hip to reframe unoriginality as an ironic pose. There’s an entire gender-studies thesis contained in the masculine anxieties expressed in “Vacation.” Rusty bemoans that he’s not cool enough for Debbie, who has slept with more partners than he, but doesn’t even notice when Chris Hemsworth, as a conservative Ken doll weatherman with a Farrah Fawcett hairdo, grinds at the duo. Applegate, as Debbie, dutifully plays the role of an unruly woman who has been tamed by domesticity and left to reassure her husband of his capabilities as a man. Most people would agree Ed Helms is funny, yet it’s still unclear if he can carry a comedy on his own. 2011’s Cedar Rapids missed its mark and he’s the 4th funniest person in Vacation. The other gross outs and crass jokes are more of the meh variety, as Debbie pukes visiting her sorority house in Tennessee and that bratty kid repeatedly calls a truck driver a rapist.

Again, nothing is going to compare to the genius of John Hughes’ original screenplay — but surely cowriters/directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (Horrible Bosses) could do better than having that twerp also telling everyone to “f–k off.” Couldn’t they just leave him on someone’s doorstep with an explanatory note pinned to his chest, a la Aunt Edna? (RIP). Co-written by John Hughes, it’s the first sequel and quite a decent one at that, including a memorable scene in which the Griswolds stay overnight with a German family who have no idea who they are.

With Hughes back as sole screenwriter, it’s probably the best of the three sequels, featuring a Christmas lighting scene that’s a gut-buster and the return of vile hillbilly Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid). It’s the least funny of the series, clearly missing both the National Lampoon label and Hughes’ comedic touch in the script, with appearances from Sin City fixtures Wayne Newton and magicians Siegfried and Roy. Instead of Christie Brinkley in the red convertible flirtatiously smiling at Clark, we see model Hannah Davis in a convertible flirtatiously smiling at Rusty. (The kicker is too good to ruin here).

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