Movie review: "Vacation" a worthy trip down the Holiday Road

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

Given the history of comedy reboots/sequels in general, it's easy to have low expectations for the latest incarnation of "Vacation."

Still, it's got a relatively clever setup to be both old and new again and some spot-on casting to further that goal. All things considered, this "Vacation" is all I ever wanted.

Things kick off on an appropriately low-brow note, as Lindsey Buckingham's "Holiday Road" - that earworm theme song from the original - plays over a slideshow of embarrassing real life vacation pictures. It's a hoot, but thankfully the movie is more than just a tune and a Buzzfeed article.

We meet Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms), a regional airline pilot who is the personification of a loving but embarrassing dad - in other words, the apple doesn't fall far from Chevy Chase's Clark Griswold tree.

Feeling his family is in a rut, he decides to recreate the cross-country drive to theme park Walley World with his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and sons James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins).

This setup couldn't be more straightforward, but what were you expecting? This "Vacation" is another string of family road trip gags, and there's nothing wrong with that.

In fact, the reason this sequel no one was really asking for works is the fact that it's humor rests so much in the vein of the original - both silly and occasionally pretty messed-up.

Helms is a perfect choice to fill the shoes of Chevy Chase - whom makes an appearance late in the film that would have worked better as a surprise, were it not given away in the opening credits. The earnest naiveté as Rusty explains (incorrectly) to his son what a rimjob is calls back nicely to the exchanges between Chase and Anthony Michael Hall (the first of three young actors to play Rusty).

Speaking of young actors, the two playing the Griswold boys are pretty fantastic, particularly through a thread of jokes about the younger brother as bully. Applegate, too, is a fine fit for the Beverly D'Angelo part.

Sure, this "Vacation" can't stand up to the original (Harold Ramis and John Hughes are a comedy dream team, after all), but it's stuffed with laughs (and cameos) and gets the spirit right. Here's a surprised recommendation to take this trip.


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3 stars out of 4