2017.78: Vacation (2015)
One of the blights of the last few decades of film-making has been the industry’s propensity towards remakes/prequels/sequels/reboots of existing intellectual properties, whether it be old movies or tv-series. We’ve seen big-screen outings for Starsky & Hutch, Baywatch and the A-Team and so many other old tv-shows. And don’t get me started on the number of film properties that get resurrected- from 1982 alone, we’ve seem a prequel to The Thing, a reboot of Conan, a sequel to Blade Runner, a remake of Poltergeist, a sequel to Tron. It seems anything goes. No sooner as Ben Affleck quits his current Batman role, it is just taken for granted that another fresh Batman will immediately hit the silver screen, for better or worse.
One of my family’s favourite film series of the VHS era was National Lampoon’s Vacation series, in which the hapless Griswold family endured terrible holidays to great comedic effect. The whole family would sit down and enjoy them- we must have watched those films so many times. Even today there is an enduring charm to the films, and I can watch Christmas Vacation every year during the Christmas holidays and still get a giggle out of it. Sometimes films age like wine, somehow, no matter how truly average they originally were. Nostalgia no doubt plays a part of that, and no doubt that’s why we get so many reboots and remakes anyway- that, and the intellectual and creative desolation that is modern Hollywood.
So here we have what amounts to the Griswolds: The Next Generation, in which the young son of the originals, Rusty, now a married man with two kids of his own, decides to re-capture the disastrous family holidays of his youth by taking his own family on a roadtrip across America to Wally World. In that weird way so many of these reboots fashion themselves, its part-continuation, part-remake. It’s a road-trip like the first film, it features a hire-car like the first film, they have all sorts of mis-adventures like in the first film. Many of the gags are direct references to the first film, such as Christie Brinkley’s supermodel in a supercar whose drive-by flirtation with our hero in the first is reprised here, a gag probably working better here than others, with a great twist that offers something new.
I suppose the question is, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? And if this is what a Vacation movie is, why should it be anything more? On the whole it’s a poor imitation of the original, as it largely misses the chemistry of the original leads and can’t help but feel over-familiar and tired (as so many reboots/remakes do). But I still got plenty of laughs out of it, once I’d warmed into it twenty minutes in. Its a Vacation movie, and quite fun. You know what you are getting- it ain’t great, but it ain’t bad. Is that damning it with faint praise?