Vacation movie review: stay home

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Vacation red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
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.

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Jawsy's Bogus Journey
Jawsy's Bogus Journey
Fri, Aug 21, 2015 10:52am

‘shit sandwich’

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jawsy's Bogus Journey
Fri, Aug 21, 2015 10:21pm

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.

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Fri, Aug 21, 2015 10:29pm

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

Fri, Aug 21, 2015 12:41pm

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.

reply to  RogerBW
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Sun, Aug 23, 2015 3:26pm

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.

reply to  MNM74
Sun, Aug 23, 2015 10:28pm

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


Mon, Aug 24, 2015 10:42pm

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

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Quellian
Tue, Aug 25, 2015 8:51am

Meaning what?

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