Just as Fun as the Original in a Different Way
Remakes, follow-ups and sequels decades after the previous installment are a risky business. There are countless examples of each of these released every year into theaters and fans cast their votes with their dollars. With the modern age though there is a new, younger, audience that is more and more being the audience these films are finding sitting in those valuable theater seats. This younger audience may not have experienced the original movie and its ambience like the older generation did oh so many years ago. Vacation is one such movie that is facing that harsh reality, unjustly but it is still there. Taken as a fun family romp across the country, Vacation is decent, but taken as part of the whole “National Lampoon Vacation…” series it is a lot more fun. The problem Vacation is experiencing with critics today is that most of the people reviewing it were probably not alive when the original was released. That really hurts the value you will get out of this movie.
Every Trips Begins Somewhere
The opening of Vacation gives a nod to another classic movie, Airplane which starred Leslie Neilson and many others, and is a good method of setting up the rest of the movie. Rusty Griswold, the son from the original series, is all grown up and now has a family of his own, a career at a crappy regional airline and his own enemies to face. His family is the stereotypical wife, husband and two kids but they have two sons (younger is a jerk while the older is “offbeat” just a bit) instead of a daughter- a point that is made by Rusty once his wife finds out his plans to drive to Wally World (fictional recreation referencing Disney’s California based amusement park). Christina Applegate (of Married with Children fame) plays Debbie, Rusty’s wife and is quick witted with her comebacks and solid in her apprehension of not only, essentially, recreating the original Griswold family vacation but also other antics that pop up during the movie.
The Next Step is Usually a Trip
Things get out of hand early on for the new Griswold family, much like they did in the original Vacation. Things start to fall apart when the car is introduced, in the original it was a lime green station wagon that, while built tank tough, was not built Griswold tough. We see a new car, a car for the modern era introduced for this vacation- the Tartan Prancer, a blue monstrosity that could only live in a movie like this. One memorable scene from the commercials features Rusty telling Debbie to slam the door on his arm, that the Prancer has a sensor that won’t let it actually hit his arm- the salesman demonstrated it. Of course, it does hit his arm and after some re-assuring, and the sensor apparently being armed this time, the act is conducted again. The results are the same and Rusty finally admits no one should be slamming the door on body parts. It is the facial expressions, the body language and general setup of the event that brings this home as a comedy. The rest of the movie has a similar setup, things are built up just enough to be funny.
That Scene, It Was Filmed in Arkansas
The famous raw sewage bath that the Griswold’s think is a hot mineral bath, filmed right down the road from me in Hot Springs Arkansas, is another scene that really draws you in. Had they not shown this scene, for the most part, in the commercials it would have been one of the more “laugh out loud” surprise moments of the film. Other memorable moments that added to what was shown in the commercials include the ending of the cow herding scene with Chris Helmsworth (who plays Thor in the Marvel Movie Universe for those wondering). I won’t ruin it for you but Chris’s portrayal of a southern jerk is quite spot on and believable, especially after we find out the fate of the cow that Rusty hit on the four wheeler.
Four Corners, Multiple Adventures
The adventure continues onward and the Griswold’s find themselves stopping in Arizona where even more antics playout. Debbie gave off the wrong vibes while around Stone Crandall (Chris Helmsworth) back in Texas so Debbie and Rusty sneak off to “renew” their love. This can only be done properly at the four corners monument, which doesn’t turn out anything like you would expect but the ensuing police action is funny. What happens at the four corners monument is, I hope, something that happens quite a lot, it was funny and how could the police serving that area not have a sense of humor, or big chips on their shoulders? Either one is fine with me as they could lead to hilarity in real life.
In Arizona the older brother, James, meets his love interest and takes her advice about handling his younger brother’s jerk attitude. Kevin, the younger brother is taken down a notch or two and it changes his attitude rather quickly.
Teddy Bear Trucker, Exactly What it Seems
There is a trucker that has been messing with the Griswold’s since the early part of their trip, apparently Kevin insulted truckers in general on the CB. While not an integral part of the story, it is funny how this trucker is used in various scenes in the movie. There are a few jokes and a very uneasy moment just for kicks. The trucker is also how the Griswold’s reach Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, the parents from the original National Lampoon’s Vacation movie, who now live in San Francisco (they must have learned that cross country family trips in a car don’t work). They are now running a bed and breakfast and that just opens up another avenue for a spin-off movie based around this newfound love in retirement. I would pay to see that.
Meet the Original Griswold Parents
Reaching the grandparents is a pivotal moment for the new Griswold family as this is where an integral piece linking the two movies is introduced. We see the station wagon from the original National Lampoon’s Vacation be handed down to Rusty and his family so that they may finish their family vacation and finally reach Wally World. If I remember correctly, the original station wagon was destroyed during that trip, I may have to refresh my memory sooner than later and re-watch the original again. As with these movies, the leg up for the family is just another step towards more problems for everyone. They do indeed reach Wally World but they are now stuck in line, about 4 hours of it, before they can ride the ride that Rusty wants them all to experience- the Velociraptor roller coaster ride.
Old Rivals Rear Their Ugly Heads
Remember those enemies that I mentioned Rusty having earlier? One such enemy rears his ugly head towards the end of the movie as the Griswold family are just about to get on the ride. A pilot for a larger airline causes trouble just as the park closes and well, we get to see a nod to Christina Applegate’s earlier role of Kelly Bundy make an appearance. It is another nod that is welcome and, while coming in late in the movie, it is fun to see make an appearance at all.
Nostalgia, Not Going to See It, or Future Classic
While not a perfect, Vacation has enough cues to the original to keep it interesting for nostalgia fans while adding in just enough for the newbies to this series. If you have never seen the original then you will miss a few things here and there but on its own, Vacation stands on slightly wobbly legs but still stands. Fans of the series will obviously get more out of this follow-up than new fans but this could go on to be their nostalgia trip in 30 years.