“We're not redoing anything. This'll be completely different.” 21 Jump Street has a lot to answer for – not least the cringe-worthy dad humor of Rusty Griswold, attempting to steal one of their best jokes. Yes, it's the further adventures of Rusty, of perma-horny European Vacation and blank slate Christmas fame. Jason Lively and Johnny Galicki no more, Ed Helms is the next generation of Griswold patriarch. And, surprise, they're going on vacation! Again.
Thankfully, once they get the awful Meta humour out of the way (including the big cameo from Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo, which doesn't really work), it's back to Walley World. Wife (Christina Applegate) and kids (one horrible, one less so) in tow, Russ attempts the very same road trip, stopping off to see a few relatives along the way. Like the old National Lampoon movies, Vacation is not so much a sustained narrative as a series of barely related skits in which the Griswolds manage to get themselves in and out of farcical scrapes. Russ may have gotten goofier with age (he's the typical Ed Helms character) but he's no less boner-prone – much of the film's pathos, and some of its comedy revolves around his attempts to reconnect with his wife and get a little nookie in the most inopportune of places.
It's an old fashioned family comedy combined with the puerile, often mean humour of a Hangover sequel. The former gets us a near fatal rafting session, the latter scenes in which the Griswolds bathe in human turds and drive around with a human penis drawn on the side of their car- a car that serves as the movie's best running gag, by the way. Between that, its cameos (Hemsworth steals the show), and the bullying of Russ's older son by his little brother, Vacation is a lot funnier than it has any right to be. It fizzles out towards the end, and We're the Millers did it better, but this one holds some solid laughs nevertheless.
Exceeding expectations by not being a complete piece of ass, Vacation does a sterling job of not embarrassing the family name. Nice one, Russ.
VACATION / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN, JOHN FRANCIS DALEY / SCREENPLAY: JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN, JOHN FRANCIS DALEY / STARRING: ED HELMS, CHRISTINA APPLEGATE, SKYLAR GISONDO, STEELE STEBBINS, LESLIE MANN, CHRIS HEMSWORTH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW