“Vacation” – Review with Spoilers by MovieManMenzel

vacation 2015 movie review

Not the Vacation That You Want to Remember

At a very young age, my mother and father allowed me to watch National Lampoon’s Vacation. In a lot of ways, I feel as if I grew up alongside the Griswolds. I loved being a part of their family whether it was spending Christmas with them or taking a trip across country to Wally World. The Vacation series (yes, even Vegas Vacation) still to this day holds a very special place near and dear to my heart. I don’t know if its nostalgia or just the simple fact that I somehow connected with the Griswolds in someway. They were, in a lot of ways one of the first and most memorable dysfunctional families to hit the big screen. For all these reasons,  I was beyond nervous when I first heard about Warner Brothers green lighting the reimagining of Vacation. 

The Vacation remake/reboot opens with the song Holiday Road which also opened the 1983 film. Whenever that song comes on the radio or plays anywhere, I immediately think of the Griswolds. About 30 seconds into the opening credits, this new Vacation destroys that memory for me. In the original, Holiday Road was accompanied by images of places people travel to in the United States. In this remake, those images have been replaced by badly photoshopped images of animals humping and people in weird situations such as a person riding a horse with a hard-on or a father having his nipple squeezed by a baby. I honestly couldn’t believe that I began cringing before a single actor walked on-screen.

The basic setup to Vacation is as follows: Rusty (Ed Helms) overhears his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) talking to her friend, Nancy (Regina Hall) at dinner about how she doesn’t want to go camping again for the 11th year in a row. After hearing the disheartening truth, Rusty begins to ponder what he can do in order to make his family vacation special again. This leads Rusty to the idea that he should take his family on a trip across country to Wally World, just like he did when he was a little boy. When Rusty tells his family about the idea, they don’t like it but sure enough, Rusty’s high spirit convinces them to go along so that he can relive his childhood.

Unlike the original, 2015’s Vacation doesn’t give the audience any reason to like or care about the Griswold family. We are re-introduced to Rusty who is an airline pilot for EconoAir. Our first introduction to his character shows him falling down on a passenger’s wife while grabbing her boobs and then ripping off her shirt. After this painfully unfunny introduction, Rusty heads home to see his family. Upon arriving home, Rusty finds his wife Debbie arguing with her younger son Kevin (Steele Stebbins) about bullying his older brother James (Skyler Gisondo). We see them arguing about Kevin writing “I have a vagina” on James guitar. Honestly at this point, I began asking myself can someone please shoot me now? How the hell could the writers have believed that audiences would connect with these characters by making them this annoying and unrelatable right from the start? 

vacation car

After the initial setup, the family hits the road in a Prancer that they rented. You should know that a Prancer is a car made in Albania that apparently has all these super cool features like doors with sensors that won’t shut on your arm, two gas tanks, and a key fob that has pictures of everything from a rabbit to a swastika. The family spends about 5 minutes talking about how cool the car is before heading to Debbie’s old college. Why Rusty would think that his wife, let alone his kids would want to visit a college campus in Memphis is completely moronic but hey what do I know.

While at Memphis State, Rusty learns that his wife was once known as “Debbie Do Anything.” Apparently, when in college Debbie was a huge party girl that would do anything from drinking anything that she was dared to drink to sleeping with every guy she encountered. This completely pointless 1st stop results in an awkward scene where Debbie has a confrontation with the sorority girls about whether or not she really is Debbie Do Anything. To prove that she still has it, Debbie quickly decides to “teach these bitches a lesson for disrespecting her” and ends up doing this Wipeout type obstacle course that she invented when she attended. After downing a pitcher of beer, Debbie makes her way through the obstacle course and ends up getting hit in the face repeatedly, falling down repeatedly, and throwing up repeatedly.

After the family leaves Memphis College, they gets chased by a trucker and Rusty pretends he is Vin Diesel and flips the Prancer over multiple times on the highway. After that devastating event, the Griswolds check into a hotel where Rusty and Debbie find a big ball of pubic hair in a hotel room while trying to have sex in the shower. Later that evening, James and some random girl named Adena are flirting by the hot tub. This is where Rusty comes along and starts saying awkward things to make Adena uncomfortable and causes her to leave. The night ends in a discussion where James and Rusty discuss what a rim job is.

The following morning, they make a stop at a hot spring and instead of waiting in line to get in, they ask a weird drifter if there is a way to by-pass the line. The drifter sends them down a dirt road that leads them raw sewage dump which they mistake for “Griswold Springs.” The family swims in the sewage and rubs shit all over their bodies until they soon learn that they aren’t in a hot springs but rather raw sewage. The family quickly races back to their car only to find out that it has been broken into and everything is stolen out of it. The gang has no other choice but to drive naked to Audrey (Leslie Mannand Stone’s (Chris Hemsworth) house.

vacation review

When they arrive at Audrey and Stone’s home in Texas, Rusty and Debbie realize that there is a huge penis drawn on the side of their car. Embarrassed enough that they are naked and covered in feces, they try to spit on their hands and rub the penis markings off the car. Of course it does nothing and Stone and Audrey say nothing about the couple looking like they are jerking off a penis drawing on their car. They make their way inside the house where some weird flirting between Stone and Debbie occurs and later in the evening Rusty and Debbie have a fight about the fact that Debbie wants to have sex with Stone. A few minutes after the fight, Stone comes walking into their room in his boxers. This 3-5 minutes scene is consists of Stone walking to different places in the room and talking to Debbie and Rusty while his huge penis is bulging out of his boxer shorts.

Just a reminder, at this point in the original, Clark and his family would be visiting Uncle Eddie and Eddie would be asking Clark for money while talking about how good hamburger helper is. This scene would eventually lead to Clark getting stuck taking Aunt Edna and her dog home. In the remake, that memorable moment is replaced with going to Audrey and Stone house. The best joke that the writers could come up with is that Stone has a huge penis and Debbie likes to flirt with Stone. What a pathetic trade off… Anyway, back to the review. 

The next day, Rusty and Stone go ATV riding and Rusty runs into a cow which explodes all over him. After this stupid event, the gang decides to leave and check into a teepee motel. In the middle of the night, Rusty decides to wake up Debbie to ask her if she wants to drive to four corners so they can have sex in four places at once. While Rusty and Debbie are attempting to have sex at four corners, they get interrupted by four cops from the surrounding states that begin to argue who has the right to arrest them. The couple fleas from the scene while they are arguing and I begin to wonder how much longer is this awful film.

While Rusty and Debbie are trying to do the nasty at four corners, James and Adena meet up yet again at the teepee hotel. The two while being completely awkward with one another decide to kiss after James asks to give her a rim job. Their romantic moment is quickly interrupted by Kevin who begins to bully James. It is in this moment where Adena asks James why he doesn’t stand up for himself and beat up his brother. This leads to one of the worst moments in the film where James pushes Kevin down to the ground only to get on top of him and smack him lightly on the cheek and forehead. I realize that this scene only went on for probably a minute but it easily felt like 10 minutes because it was just that bad.

vacation penis

Soon after the fight, Kevin and James head back into the teepee to go to bed before their mom and dad get back. When the family wakes the next morning, they drive to the Grand Canyon to go white water rafting. The gang meets their tour guide Chad (Charlie Day) who before taking them on the course learns that his fiancée, Tanya as just ended their relationship. This leads to a slow motion scene featuring the song I Can’t Live and Chad taking the Griswolds down one of the biggest and roughest white water courses at the Grand Canyon.

After leaving the Grand Canyon, the Prancer runs out of gas and the family decides to ask Rusty if they can just go home. Rusty tries to stay positive and begins to press a bunch of the buttons on the Prancer’s key fob. This sadly doesn’t do anything but cause the car to explode, leaving the family stranded in the middle of nowhere. Tired and angry, Rusty freaks out, just like Clark did in the original films, but only not even remotely entertaining or memorable.

A few moments after Rusty’s freak out that results in him storming off into the desert, that random truck that ran the family off the road in the beginning of the film shows up and scares Rusty. It turns out that the trucker was just following them because he found Debbie’s wedding ring that she lost earlier in the film. The family hitches a ride to San Francisco where they get dropped off at Clark and Ellen’s Bed and Breakfast.

It was at this point where I smiled for the first time that I spend watching this film. This is the moment I was waiting for! I wanted to see Chevy Chase and Beverly DeAngelo back as Clark and Ellen Griswold. However, this moment which I was really hoping would turn the film around, quickly became a really short plot device to get Rusty motivated to continue on the journey and get his family to Wally World.

vacation 2015 review

Needless to say, the family gets to Wally World and stands in a 5 hour line to get on the Velociraptor roller coaster. Just before they get on the ride, Ron Livingston and his family cut them in line and the two families fight one another in a slow motion fight that again probably lasts for about a minute but easily feels like 10. During this fight, no cops come nor does anyone who works at the park get involved even though they are fighting right on the coaster platform. The family then rides the coaster while singing Seal’s Kiss by a Rose until they get stuck on the coaster.

Just when you think the film is going to end, the film stubbles along for another 5-10 minutes as Rusty decides to take the kids to the airport and send them home while he and Debbie head off to Paris on the vacation that she deserves. This is where the film ends as the couple sits in the flight attendant seats near the bathroom at the back of the airplane. Yep, ladies and gentleman that is how this completely pointless remake ends.

Clearly, I realize that I already spoiled the entire film in this review and I am hoping by doing so I can at least stop one person from seeing this awful excuse for a film. As I stated in the beginning, I love the Vacation films but this is not a Vacation film but rather a cash grab for a new generation that has no idea what made those films some great and timeless. This film tries to mimic the original franchise but fails horribly. Nothing at all about this film feels genuine or even remotely clever. Most of this film feels like a mean spirited jab towards the original and what makes it worse is that it completely misses the point of what the original film set out to achieve. Its clearly like the writers and directors didn’t get the point of the original franchise.

While Ed Helms tries at times to be the lovable clueless dad like Clark, he ultimately fails because he just doesn’t have the charm that Chevy Chase had as Clark Griswold. Helms is really just playing Stu from the Hangover yet again but only this time he has a family. I like Helms, I really do but he should never have taken on this project. If he really is still attached to the Naked Gun remake, he really needs to reconsider because he is going to quickly end of being the next Adam Sandler.

vacation movie image

Beside Helms, Applegate is just wasted in this film. During this entire film, she looks like she doesn’t give a fuck what she is doing and is just showing up to get a paycheck. I didn’t buy her relationship with Rusty nor did I believe any of the dramatic moments that this film haphazardly tried to force on to the audience. I like Applegate but this role and material is really beneath her.

As for the kids, they were probably the worst part of this experience. While I get that they were trying to play on the little brother being the asshole bully, there is no reason why this film had to make Kevin as unlikable as he was. The kid could have been a dick but seriously we didn’t need that to occur every second he was on screen. James, on the other hand, was a whiny little bitch and while I liked him more out of the two, the whole run on gag about him being super dorky and feminine got old really fast.

All in all, I hated Vacation but not because the film was really poorly written, was painfully unfunny, and featured all unlikable characters, but rather because the film never even tried to grasp the concept that made the original films so great. The whole point of a Vacation film is for us as audience members to feel as though we are a member of that family and that the events that happen can actually take place during a trip across country. The events that happen in this film make no sense at all and are just there for shock value. I don’t get how anyone could find this film entertaining or funny. I don’t even get how these actors could read this script and agree to do it. It truly baffles me that a classic film that was directed by Harold Ramis and written by John Hughes could be turned into this huge flaming pile of shit. This film feels like a personal attack on my childhood and one that left a very bad taste in my mouth.

MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Vacation is a 2 out of 10.

Written by
Born in New Jersey, Scott "Movie Man" Menzel has been a film fanatic since he was three years old. Growing up, he watched as many movies as he could and was highly influenced by Tim Burton, John Hughes, Robert Zemeckis, and Steven Spielberg. Scott has an Associates Degree in Marketing, a Bachelors in Mass Media, Communications and a Masters in Electronic Media. He has been writing film reviews under the alias of MovieManMenzel since 2003 and started his writing career as a contributing critic at IMDB.com and Joblo.com. In 2009, Scott launched MovieManMenzel.com where he posted several of his film reviews but in 2011 decided to shut down the site when he launched We Live Film.com, which he founded. In 2015, We Live Film became We Live Entertainment. The domain name changed occurred after months of debate but was done so that he and his fellow staff members could write about anything and everything in the world of entertainment.

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