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Movie Review Vacation

Starring Ed Helms and Christina Applegate

This long and tired story begins in 1983, the year Clark Griswold decided to take his family on a road-trip vacation to Walley World. Thirty-two years later, his son, Rusty, decides it’s time for another Griswold family to trek to that fabled amusement park in California. This reboot of National Lampoon’s Vacation has jokes of variable quality and none of the cultural relevance of the 1983 original. The father, played by Ed Helms, is Rusty Griswold, whom you may remember as played by Anthony Michael Hall, has now grown up, has kids and marital woes of his own, and he’s got the brilliant (and easily marketable!) idea to do a retread of that original cross-country trip to Walley World. Things go wrong. The family smashes into a cow; they accidentally bathe in excrement; they even set the GPS to scream at them in Korean. Helms does the clueless dad stuff well and Christina Applegate is quite amusing as the Pollyanna mom one minute, somewhat sexually frustrated former high school party girl the next. (A visit to her old school reveals a past persona as Debbie Do-Anything.) Some jokes are better than others, but none of it is all that clever. A slew of comedians get a moment or two in a bit part. It’s all performance-based comedy, essentially vamping in a wacky costume. (Of the cavalcade, Charlie Day, as the depressed white water rafting instructor, gets the gold star.) Chris Hemsworth shows up as Helms’s brother-in-law and there is plenty to admire about our Chris. You’ll laugh, but you’ll feel guilty doing it. The best surprises come from the back seat of the car. Whereas the original had a brother and sister, this time we’ve got two boys. The twist is that the younger, prepubescent Kevin (Steele Stebbins) is the alpha, constantly bullying his gentle older brother James (Skyler Gisondo). It starts out with name calling, but leads to some shockingly dark places, especially if you’re worried about putting a plastic bag over your head. The sad thing is that this movie isn’t funny or transgressive enough to cause any turmoil. The original wasn’t exactly a masterpiece but it did have Chevy Chase who is really missed in this reboot.

Rated MA 15 plus

5 out of 10

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