Review: Vacation Is A Dumpster Fire

It can be argued that Marvin Gaye’s most famous single was released in 1968, entitled “ Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing.” This song was loud in my head as I watch the reboot of National Lampoon’s Vacation unfold on the screen last week. You can try really hard to recapture the magic of the original movie but, like the song says, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing.” Watching this Vacation unfold was the equivalent of watching a dumpster fire. About halfway through, I wanted to wave the white flag and give up to end the sheer suffering that those actors must have felt for being part of such a terrible premise for a reboot.

The reboot centers around Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) and his fond memories of his childhood trip to Wally World. Rusty surprises his wife (Christina Applegate) and two sons with a cross country trip to America’s #1 fun park. Soon, the promise of the trip turns into one mishap after another for the Griswolds, and anyone who is around them.

This film was doomed from the start because of its choice in leading men: Ed Helms. Helms was never going to be able to live up to the standard set by Chevy Chase, still considered one of the best comedic actors of a generation. Chase was the main reason the original Vacation worked. My mom to this day will watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation because she needs her dose of Chevy during the silly season. Ed Helms is best suited as a supporting actor. He has never truly been able to carry a movie, and he falters here.


Christina Applegate was another terrible casting choice as Rusty’s wife. Watching her on screen in the movie was as exciting as drinking  tap water. I didn’t buy her. Applegate’s character has a very shady past that we find out in the course of the  movie, and nothing she did made me even remotely think that she could have done the things.

Vacation also tried to be a little risqué, teasing with the edge but never going over. Why Not?! It could have been funnier if they had gone all in. If you saw the red-band trailer, it gives the impression that the whole movie is raunchy. I’m here to tell you that those edgy moments are basically entirely in the trailer. To be honest, I was drawn in by the trailer, yet when I watched this movie unfold, stunned silence was much more prevalent than laughter.

Overall, I feel that some movies are best left alone. How can you compete with the legacy set by the original Vacation movie? There is a scene in the movie where the two sons are fighting and one of them tries to suffocate the other one with a plastic bag. I was so not into this movie that I found myself wanting to be the kid inside the bag. At least I would black out eventually and the pain would end.

If you are looking for laughs, I highly recommend you checking out the real thing (the original Vacation). If you choose to see Vacation you will just pay to watch a cinematic dumpster fire.

Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.

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