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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Vacation movie review: stay home

Vacation red light

All homophobic, xenophobic, scatological grossout, with some rape and pedophilia “jokes” for flavor. How did this happen?
I’m “biast” (pro): have hazy good memories of the 1980s films…

I’m “biast” (con): …but really tired of reboot fever

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

For those playing along at home, we’ve gone from — in the 1983 movie Vacation — the comedic stylings of Harold Ramis (director), John Hughes (screenwriter), and Chevy Chase (star) to — in this new sequel/reboot — the desperate flailings of John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein (writer-directors) and Ed Helms (star). Vacation is yet another example of screenwriters with no experience directing features being given the keys to a studio film, which is one of those great Hollywood tricks that defies all sense. And never mind the directing job! Daley and Goldstein are counterindicated just to write the script alone: they’ve got a couple of pretty good screenplays to their names (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, though it was a flop; Horrible Bosses), but they’ve also got a couple of mediocre to bad ones, and those are sequels (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Horrible Bosses 2, also a flop). So how did their Vacation happen? Who looked at the script Daley and Goldstein produced for this — all homophobic, xenophobic, scatological grossout, with some rape and pedophilia “jokes” for flavor — and said, “Brilliant! Here’s $30 million. Go make it happen!”? Who thought Helms (They Came Together), the unfunny Daily Show alum who makes all the rest of them look even better, was perfect as the grownup Rusty Griswold, and who thought it would be a good idea to get Chase back for a cameo as the elder Griswold, which only highlights how dismal this family road trip to theme park Wally World is? There’s a stink of threatened masculinity all over this movie, from the gendered abuse the younger Griswold son (Steele Stebbins) lobs at the older one (Skyler Gisondo: The Amazing Spider-Man 2) to the “comically” huge penis of Rusty’s brother-in-law (Chris Hemsworth: Avengers: Age of Ultron), who flirts with Rusty’s wife (Christina Applegate: The Book of Life). The scene in which the Griswolds stop to swim at a “hot spring” that turns out to be a raw-sewage dump, and end up covered in shit, is an excellent metaphor for the experience of watching this film. I wonder if the recurring petulant defensiveness against perceived inferiority is an accidental metaphor for the making of it.


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Vacation for its representation of girls and women.


red light half a star

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Vacation (2015)
US/Can release: Jul 29 2015
UK/Ire release: Aug 21 2015

MPAA: rated R for crude and sexual content and language throughout, and brief graphic nudity
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, sex references, nudity)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Jawsy’s Bogus Journey

    ‘shit sandwich’

  • RogerBW

    My theory is that being associated with a commercial flop gets directors, in particular, informally barred from anything except “safe” reboots and minor franchise entries – films with a guaranteed audience who’ll turn up on name recognition alone – until they’ve made at least one commercial success.

    The opening weekend brought in 47% of the nominal budget so I suspect this stinker counts as a “commercial success” in spite of the dire reviews.

  • Funny, I thought of that in response to Absolutely Anything. I almost headlined that review “absolutely shit” but I thought it would be a stretch that that would make people think of Shark Sandwich.

  • Jaws

    Still would’ve been on the money, as far as mere description goes.

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  • MNM74

    My girlfriend and I took her 17-year-old niece to watch “Mad Max: Fury Road” a couple of months back, and simply seeing the trailer for this abortion of a movie made me want to walk out of the damn theater. I’m no prude, and I can even get a laugh out of toilet humor sometimes (one of the better examples I can think of is what you, MaryAnn, coined as the “non-gratuitous fart joke” in “Shaun Of The Dead”), but what I was seeing in this trailer was some of the laziest, trashiest, lowest-common-denominator writing to ever masquerade as a screenplay. Pathetic and disheartening.

  • LaSargenta

    I saw MM:FR three times, so I saw this massive waste of brain space trailer thrice.

    *whimper*

  • Quellian

    Are you triggered? You seem like you wouldn’t be very fun at parties.

  • Meaning what?

    You’re doing a bad job of trolling/insulting if we cannot even understand what you’re trying to say.

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