Monday, August 3, 2015

Vacation Review

Oh lordy was the opening sequence of Vacation dire. It was the sort of comedic misfire that filled my stomach with the sort of dread that kids feel when they've been sent to the principals office. The purpose of this opening was to introduce the personality of Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) in the confines of his airplane pilot job. While talking to a couple and their kid, some unexpected turbulence sends Rustys hands....straight onto the mothers breasts! Oh Rusty! You unintentional scamp! It was such a hokey sequence executed with negative amounts of flair that it left me wallowing in despair that the rest of the movie would be at this level of ineptitude.

Thankfully, the feature picks up there to deliver some legitimately enjoyable laughs, but it never rises to anything more than just a few scenes qualifying as "a decent way to waste some time", Much of that blame must fall to Rusty, whose an inconsistent mess of a character. He's played off as a well-meaning dad, but his mild mannered personality is tossed under the bus frequently so that the movie can deliver more raunchy gags.

Still, Ed Helms is a likable enough guy and he does deliver some funny moments in the film, best of which is easily a sequence where he does an ill-fated attempt at being his eldest sons wingman. As Rusty takes his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), and his sons, James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) on a cross country voyage to Walley World, I do wish there more successfully humorous moments involving his character as well as his other members of the family, who have varying degrees of success in terms of scoring laughs. After a brief trip to her college campus, Debbie doesn't get a whole lot to do in the story besides ogle Chris Hemsworths character, though at least his sons create some memorable yuks and even get a character arc of sorts.

Actually, the side characters that Rusty and his familial comrades are where the film most succeeds in creating laughs. Chris Hemsworth and Leslie Mann (the latter playing Rustys sister) as a married couple have some memorable moments, such as her recurring yearning to have a job, but it's Charlie Day who steals the whole movie as a river rafting guide that had me in stitches. His character takes a dark turn in the story that provided a sort of storytelling zest to the otherwise by-the-numbers proceedings that Vacation goes through. Plus, it's Charlie Day, you have to be as terrible of a director as Harold Cronk to not get some laughs from the fellow.

John Francis Daly and Johnathan M. Goldstein have had a hand in several Warner Bros./New Line Cinama comedies over the past few years, with their most notable contributions being the writers behind Horrible Bosses and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Here with Vacation, they not only handle writing the film but also make their directorial debut. Their work here is...OK, I guess? It's not bad, never approaching the banal visual style of Adam Sandlers comedies, but they don't show a distinctive flair like Edgar Wright or Adam McKay have. Being their first movie, it's totally forgivable that they don't fire on all cylinders here, but considering how average if sporadically amusing Vacation is, would it be too much to ask for some noteworthy directing to liven up the endeavor?

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