ZERO stars out of ****
Early on in Vacation, a direct sequel to National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), there is a callback to the original film where a hot girl in a Ferrari (Hannah Davis here and Christie Brinkley in the original) races up to Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms), as he drives his family cross country, and flirts with him. Suddenly, she is hit head on by a Mack truck and the car explodes! Ah yes, a violent death in a “cute” comedy. Hilarious...right? Not only is that scene pretty repulsive, it's actually a slap in the face to the original film and its fans. You see, in '83's Vacation, the girl in the car was a plot element. Will the clumsy but lovable Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) cheat on his wife with that floozy? Here, killing the girl is a way of the filmmakers of the new movie – writers and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein – saying, “See, we're better and more subversive than the lame original Vacation.” They are wrong. Their film is unfunny, disgusting (vomit and poop jokes) and extremely unpleasant (pedophile and suicide gags). On top of that, all the evidence here suggest the filmmakers hate their characters and hate their audience.
The new Vacation has Rusty, the son of Clark, deciding to relive the vacation from his youth by taking his wife (Christina Applegate) and two sons – the youngest (Steele Stebbins) is a hateful smart-ass and the oldest (Skyler Gisondo) is a shy awkward teen – on a road trip to visit Walley World and ride the greatest roller coaster of roller coasters called The Velociraptor. Instead of a pleasant trip, it is one nightmarish incident after another.
Now, in the '83 film, Rusty, played by Anthony Michael Hall, is a savvy teen and almost always a step ahead of his oafish father. Here, Rusty is a complete idiot. What happened? I'll tell you what happened. For the filmmakers to capture the older audience with the thought of nostalgia they had to link the films, and that link is the characters of the Griswold, so the Rusty character is required to be dumb like the character originated by Chase no matter if it is consistent or not. Speaking of Chase, he and his movie wife, Beverly D'Angelo, both make sad, useless cameos here in an attempt to seal that nostalgic feeling.
Now, there is much dark humor in the original movie like mean old aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) dying and then Clark strapping her corpse to the roof of the car. Or Edna's vicious dog accidentally being dragged to death because he was tied to the rear bumper of the car and forgotten about. The actual graphic moments aren't shown and happen off screen. The funny parts are the characters reactions. Clark and a motorcycle cop (James Keach) discussing the dog is hilarious. In the new movie we are shown everything like Applegate vomiting through an obstacle course.
This Vacation update is utterly awful. It's mean and never gives its characters or the audience an even break.