Wednesday 19 August 2015

Review: Vacation

World of Blackout Film Review

Vacation Poster

Cert: 15 / 99 mins / Dir. John Francis Daley / Trailer
WoB Rating: 5/7

Well, there's a turn-up. The trailer for Warner Bros' retooling of the National Lampoons' Vacation franchise has been played to death in recent weeks, and it did less to boost my confidence with each re-watch. That the movie has had a right kicking from reviewers in the US didn't help either, so I braced myself for the worst as I sat down for a preview-showing. I mean, I've seen worse in the last month, right?

Well actually, yes. Sure, the minimalistically rebranded Vacation isn't quite as sweet-natured or nostalgic as it'd like to think it is, the gross-out moments aren't as subversive or anarchic as they probably felt in the script-meetings, and the references and in-jokes to the earlier films aren't as clever or subtle as the screenwriters had hoped. But the film more than passed the laugh-test. The chemistry of Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Grisondo and Steele Stebbins papers over the cracks and makes for a consistently amusing series of interlinked sketches (which is no more or less than what these movies are intended to be, to be fair).

I laughed, the audience laughed, the film went down very well. Tellingly, most of the gags from the trailer fell a little flat, probably as a result of repeated exposure in recent weeks, so the film's going to be funniest the first time you see it (although the plastic-bag joke worked just as well, probably because it's longer and even more sadistic in the film). Vacation doesn't get too misty-eyed for the past, littered with more than its fair share of bad language and questionable subject matter, but by the same token, it never forgets that it's a film about the Griswold family. And just when you think Chris Hemsworth has overplayed his comedic hand a little, Chevy Chase is wheeled out for a few scenes in the final act and threatens to derail the entire thing. He's not awful (and obviously deserves a place at the table) but his performance is, to put it politely, batshit.

Far better than it has any real right to be, Vacation mixes the farce of The Griswolds with the faeces of The Hangover and just about gets away with it. This time.

Against my wiser instincts, I rather enjoyed it.
Don't tell anyone.

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
I'm not sure I'd go that far…

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
This is a DVD with some friends and a few drinks. It won't be a bad movie to have on the shelf, but don't buy it until the price drops.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
Again, not sure I'd go that far, although Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins steal the show as the squabbling Griswold kids.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Be an entertaining, disposable Summer comedy? Yes.
Reinvigorate the Vacation franchise for another run of movies? …I'm not sure I'd go that far

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not at all.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
The film features Chris 'Thor' Hemsworth who was in the Avengers movies, of course, with Sam 'Windu' Jackson.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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