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Vacation (2015)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/3/2015

All Ratings out of





Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/30/2015

We've spoken many times in the past about the notion of remaking classic films and how ridiculous I consider that notion. Sure, we all go to that certain restaurant to have our favorite dish over and over again, but movies are a different kind of thing. If a group of filmmakers were lucky enough to capture lightning in a bottle and make a great movie, it should be left at that. But, what about a classic movie which begets a "sort-of" remake. Is the new Vacation a remake of the 1983 classic or, as it features characters from that film in the present, a sequel? This isn't the question which should plague you while you watch this film. That question should be, "Why is this so bad?"

Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) is all grown up and works as a pilot for a regional airline. He is married to Debbie (Christina Applegate) and they have two sons, James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins), the former of whom is a dreamer and the latter of whom is a bully. When Rusty announces that the family will take their annual vacation to a lakeside cabin, he can see the disappointment in their eyes. Thus, he decides that they should re-create the vacation from his childhood where his family ventured to Walley World. Despite the fact that Debbie and the boys aren't very thrilled by this idea either, Rusty insists. Soon, the family finds themselves traveling cross-country in a weird foreign car, where they run into odd characters and bad situations around every corner. Will anyone have fun on this trip?

I recall hearing that Vacation was being remade and not liking that idea. But, when I learned that the film would focus on a now grown-up Rusty taking his own family on a trip, I liked that concept. This would be a way for the film to play to fans of the original series, while opening things up for new viewers. The Vacation formula was very well established and even though all of the first four films aren't all winners (Personally, I like them all, and find European Vacation to be the weakest), they are liked by many, so as long as the film could capture just a fraction of that magic, it would be fine. In fact, it seems like accomplishing this feat wouldn't be all that difficult.

So, then why did the writing and directing team of John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein seem to work so hard at making such a bad movie? I'm going to try and explain myself without coming across like a total prude (which I assure you, I am not). Sure, 1983's Vacation had some adult content -- brief nudity, a few sex jokes, a few drug jokes -- but, on the whole, the humor came from a very sweet and genuine place. While this is clearly an exaggerated version of reality, John Hughes based the story on his real life and much of it is very relatable. For some reason, Daley and Goldstein have decided to forego this approach and they've attempted to make their Vacation pretty raunchy and offensive. Did they feel that this was necessary to make it on par with other "gross-out" comedies? (Which, if you'll check your calendars, haven't really been in vogue for a few years now.) Here we get vomiting, fecal jokes, penis jokes, cattle mutilation, and various other offensive attempts at humor. The most radical of this is Kevin constantly verbally and physically abuses James.

Despite the familiar cast and the well-placed cameos found here, Vacation doesn't work because it simply isn't funny. There's nothing wrong with trying "edgy" humor, but if the audience feels that you are being "edgy" simply for the sake of being "edgy", it won't work. There's no heart here. In the original, Clark was a bumbling goof, but he was lovable. In this version, we are asked to feel sorry for Rusty and it's hard for a pitiful character to carry a film unless they are an animated animal. From the outset, the attempted humor here comes from a very mean-spirited place and it sets a terrible tone for the rest of the film. Daley and Goldstein are making their directorial debut here and it shows, as the timing is often off. They hold too long on things which aren't funny and they really drive the jokes about the car into the ground. (And don't get me started on the Charlie Day scene.)

Although I'm a fan of the original Vacation films, I was ready to welcome this new entry into the fold. Therefore, it was with great disappointment that I watched the movie in near silence, chuckling a few times, but never truly laughing. Ed Helms proves once again that he is not the right person to carry a film, although he tries his best, and the rest of the cast is wasted on stale, obvious jokes. Will this appeal to a younger crowd, who were no doubt meant to be the target audience? I hope not, as no one deserves a comedy this misguided.

Vacation even wastes Ron Livingston on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, notably blues, and the picture is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good and the frequent landscape shots show off the depth of the image. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The constant car scenes provide a nice mixture of stereo and surround effects, giving us the illusion that we are in the car as well. The movement of sounds from side-to-side and back-to-front is well-placed. The subwoofer is used very well in a few action sequences.

The Vacation Blu-ray Disc contains a small assortment of extras. "Return to Walley World" (10 minutes) is a fairly basic featurette which has the directors and the cast talking about the goals of the film and how it fits into the Vacation canon. "The Griswold Oddyssey" (19 minutes) starts by looking at the car used in the film and then examines several of the key scenes in the film. This contains a great deal of on-set footage, and comments from the cast and crew. We hear about the various locations used in the film in "Georgia" (2 minutes). The Disc contains nine DELETED SCENES which run about 12 minutes. There are two truly brand new scenes here. The final extra is a 90-second GAG REEL.

Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long