"The failed episode of Malcolm in the Middle, where everyone including the cow left their dignity at the door"
Having no recollection or understanding of the original 1983 Vacation neither matters nor makes any difference to your viewing experience. As Rusty (Ed Helms) tells his brace-faced son, James (Skyler Gisondo), that this isn’t going to be a simple regurgitation of his trip when he growing up, this is, in fact, an all-new and improved family vacation. Except this re-make fails at virtually every turn to successfully create the next new found comedy, resulting in what one can only describe as The Hangover and American Pie’s distasteful offspring.
Caught in a rut with every aspect of his life, Rusty decides to mix things up and take his beloved family on a road trip to theme park ‘Walley World’. Desperately trying to re-create the family trip he had there as a child, his excitement is well and truly massacred by his wife and kids’ negativity about the whole thing. Initially, we are lulled into a sense of thinking this is going to be a neat, new-age piece of work, albeit the dialogue focuses heavily on some very strange subjects that one would usually avoid. Pedophilia, rape and gender fluidity aren’t the usual when it comes to comedy; even if there did seem an abundance of nervous laughter throughout the theatre. Perhaps the filmmakers thought they were shedding light on very real, important world problems, but this sadly gets lost in translation.
Swiftly moving on, in amongst the sporadic humour there are legitimate laugh-out-laugh moments. Gisondo and Stebbins as the two children bounce off each other with great lines and comic timing. Equally, Helms and Applegate give it their all as the quirky, on-the-rocks couple who, after several attempts to spice up their sex life to find their happy place. At times this can truly be sweet and enduring. The family undertones are refreshingly well-acted. However simple or small the action - if it is a family member doing it, it is almost amplified to an off-the-scale level of annoying and irritating, but this is exactly what the message of the film embodies. Although, piling everyone into a car and driving 2,500 miles to a theme park is perhaps not the best way to work through your issues.
A surprise appearance from Norman Reedus will have Walking Dead fans secretly screaming for joy, even if he is labeled as a rapist, pedophilic, teddy bear-torturing trucker. Not to mention one hilarious southern, cow herding, faucet-obsessed God of Thunder played by no other than Chris Hemsworth. The familiar screech of Charlie Day along with Chevy Chase standing there spraying an abundance of air freshener was tongue-in-cheek, giving this crude and juvenile slapstick comedy the edge it needs.
Balls of pubic hair, bathing in human waste and obliterating a cow are just a few things to expect from this run-of-the-mill teen flick. Sadly, it lacks in originality and inventiveness. This feels like the failed episode of Malcom in the Middle, whereby everyone - including the cow - left their dignity at the door.