Directed by John Francis Daley & Jonathan M. Goldstein
One month ago, this blog published a review declaring “Ted 2” the “funniest movie of 2015.” In light of the recently released comedy “Vacation,” I would like to formally apologize to my readers for an unfortunate error in judgment.
Over thirty years ago, the dysfunctional Griswold family (led by Chevy Chase’s Clark) took an unforgettable cross-country trip to Walley World in their green station wagon. Now, little Rusty (Ed Helms) is all grown up, and his family is in a rut. His marriage to his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) is fizzling, and their two sons (Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins) don’t get along. So Rusty does the only logical thing—he hits the road and takes his family on the same vacation his family took.
“Vacation” starts off slowly, leading me to fear that it wouldn’t live up to the hype created after decades of waiting for another Griswold movie. But when it picks up, it really starts rolling. Ed Helms proved himself as an undeniably effective second-string in the “Hangover” movies, getting huge laughs while Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis took bigger roles. In “Cedar Rapids,” Helms showed promise in the lead. But in “Vacation,” Helms proves himself as a solid leading man, one of today’s best comic actors. The “Anchorman” franchise showed us Christina Applegate’s ability to draw big laughs, even when you don’t expect it. She seems innocent enough…until she’s not. She’s an underrated asset. But it’s the kids who bring the biggest laughs this time. In last year’s “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb,” we were introduced to Skyler Gisondo, who blew me away with his dopey style of comedy. It’s not just what he says, but also how he says it, that holds the real humor. He’s reminiscent of the original “Vacation” lead, Chevy Chase, who also has a small role in this one. He brings that brand of physical humor to his minor part. It’s one of a few nice homages to the past.
“Vacation” tips its hat to the 1983 comedy sensation while very clearly setting itself apart. It’s a composite of that and every other great road trip comedy since then. It’s not wholly original, as many of these specific types of comedies aren’t. That said, you have never seen a road trip comedy quite like this. It’s a consistent funny—the kind that makes your cheeks hurt afterward. The laughs are frequent but never raucous. “Vacation” doesn’t hit you with huge, knee-slap jokes, but tons of situation humor. I would call it the funniest movie of the year so far, though I’d need to see it again to make sure it really is better than “Ted 2.” Regardless, you owe it to yourself to hit the holiday road this weekend and watch the hilarious resurrection of a classic.