The next generation of Griswolds is at is again – and on the road for another ill-fated adventure. Following in his father's footsteps and hoping for some much-needed family bonding, a grown-up Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) surprises his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), and their two sons with a cross-country trip back to America's "favorite family fun park," Walley World.
Like many, I thought the idea of trying to reboot the 'Vacation' franchise wasn't the best of ideas. The original series of movies was basically a showcase for Chevy Chase, and it would take a special kind of charm to reproduce the fun of those films. To perhaps no one's surprise, this 'Vacation' isn't able to recapture that magic, but it's also not a blatant cash grab by the studio. There's fun to be had here, but only if one's style of fun leans towards the raunchy side of comedy.
The movie has Ed Helms taking over the role of Rusty Griswold, and I'm sure I'm not the only one a bit surprised that Rusty has grown up to become a pilot. He works for an economy airline and still lives in the Chicago area, along with his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and sons James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins). After overhearing Debbie complain to a friend about how dull their annual trips to the same cabin location have gotten over the years, Rusty decides to re-do one of his favorite family vacations from childhood and drive the family cross country to visit Walley World.
As was the case with the original Vacation movie, the Griswolds don't have any average vehicle to travel across the United States in. Russ has rented an Albanian car with so many options installed, the car becomes one of the big running gags of the movie. A little too much of a running gag if you ask me, but there are a few car-related jokes here that are worth seeing.
The biggest shock for this 'Vacation' update is how sexually charged the humor has become. Yes the original 'Vacation' was Rated R too, but there was still a sweetness about the Griswolds and their journey that made it worthy of family viewing. Not so this time around, as jokes about the male and female anatomy abound, many actually delivered by the Griswolds' youngest family member, Kevin. The result is a movie that seems more like a sequel to 2013's We're The Millers (a film I actually thought felt like a raunchy update of the original 'Vacation' when I reviewed it) than it does to the actual 'Vacation' franchise.
Another problem I had with the movie is the portrayal of Rusty himself, who never seemed like he'd grow up to be as bumbling as his father when we saw him (portrayed by various actors) in the original four 'Vacation' films. Nor is this Rusty a carbon copy of Clark, as this Rusty never has the kind of hell-bent determination to make the vacation 'perfect' the way Clark did in the prior movies. No, Ed Helms is basically playing the typical Ed Helms character here, as we've seen him in a number of other comedies.
While the original 'Vacation' movies had the 'white trash' Cousin Eddie as a thorn in the side of Clark Griswold, this new update features the well-off (but equally empty-headed) Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth), who is married to Rusty's sister, Audrey (Leslie Mann). Stone lives on a big Texas ranch and has an affinity for the word 'faucet'. He's also been blessed with quite the 'package', something that this movie has probably a little more fun with than it should.
Finally, in its last act, this 'Vacation' gives viewers a glimpse of what the whole movie should have been like when Rusty and his family pay a visit to Clark and Ellen Griswold (Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo, returning to their famous roles). Chevy Chase only gets a few minutes of screen time, but those few moments go a long way in managing to turn this movie from something you might want to skip into something that's probably worth at least one viewing. There's a sweetness and nostalgia to these moments that the whole movie could have used.
I won't say there aren't a lot of laughs in 'Vacation'. I did laugh quite frequently, and often in a 'I can't believe they went there' manner. The movie is quite funny at times. It's just that so much of it doesn't feel like a 'Vacation' sequel/reboot, but rather another edgy sexually-charged Hollywood comedy in the vein of the already-mentioned 'We're The Millers' and similar comedies like Horrible Bosses (whose writers also wrote and directed this movie). If you're a fan of that kind of comedy, you'll enjoy this 'Vacation' well enough.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Vacation' travels to Blu-ray in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack. The 50GB Blu-ray and the dual-layer DVD are housed inside an eco-friendly Elite keepcase along with an insert for a digital copy of the movie. A slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase's slick slides overtop.
Both the Blu-ray and DVD are front-loaded with advertisements for Warners' Disc to Digital program, as well as an ad for digital movies in general. The DVD is also front-loaded with trailers for 'Creed' and 'Point Break', a promo for TV's 'Supergirl', and a trailer for 'The Intern'. The main menu is the standard Warner Bros. design, with a still of the box cover image and menu selections running horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
'Vacation' was shot digitally on Arri Alexa XT cameras and is opened up slightly from its 2.35:1 theatrical exhibition to the 2.40:1 aspect ratio on this release. The video transfer here does a great job by providing a very colorful, deep, and detailed presentation with solid, inky black levels and consistent and defined skin tones. There's a lot of 'pop' to the image, which viewers should appreciate.
The presentation is pretty much free of any problematic glitches, and the only thing I managed to notice was some minor aliasing in the background of scenes during camera pans. Otherwise, the transfer is pretty impressive, with no noticeable issues with banding or macroblocking/pixelation problems.
Overall, the video quality is close to top-notch, and one of the most impressive things about this Blu-ray release.
The feature audio here is a Dolby Digital 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that is solid, if not always spectacular. Dialogue is crisp throughout, and always properly mixed with the ambient noises and the movie's frequent selection of soundtrack tunes. However, it's really only during the musical soundtrack that the rears are noticeable, aside from some additional background noises here and there. There are a few instances where the track provides a slightly immersive feel, but those moments are few and far between. LFE use is virtually non-existent. Overall, this is a nicely rendered track, although not one audiophiles are likely to find memorable.
In addition to the lossless 5.1 track, audio is also available in an English 5.1 Descriptive Audio track, as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 in French, Spanish (Latin), and Portuguese. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Spanish (Latin), and Portuguese.
The biggest problem with this new 'Vacation' is that it doesn't seem to fit in properly with the quartet of films that came before it, even though it tries to be a continuation of those movies. This new version is raunchier, wilder, and more profane than those earlier titles, and it's easy to see why a lot of fans were turned off by this movie. Still, if you're a fan of this kind of humor, there are more than a few laughs to be found here. 'Vacation' falls a little short of being recommended, but I think it's still worth a look.