As I was seated in the theatre watching Vacation, a film that harks back to the original Griswold vacation films, the content and lines that came from this film, the situations had me, and those around me laughing loudly. One of my favourite lines that pretty much summed up the feel/direction of this film was said by father of two Rusty Griswold played by Ed Helms. Driving a technologically confusing vehicle he utters the phrase in a dramatic car chase, “If Vin Diesel can do it, so can I.” Between the hysterics of driving cross-country, the effective dramatic use of slow motion and the epic car sing along audience goers were kept glued to the screen.
The Griswolds are back in the form of grown up son Rusty Griswold who now has his own family, one, who he takes on a journey of bonding and discovery. Helms leads the chorus of comedic talent which includes Christina Applegate as his wife Debbie Griswold and their two sons James Griswold played by Skyler Gisondo and Kevin Griswold played by Steele Stebbins. For me watching the family dynamic, I have to say, there were some similarities which I’m sure you may also see in your own family. Throughout the film each character and their specific traits evolved and really contributed to the story and overall humour within the film. Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the original. There are apparently similarities to the original, but I went in with a clean slate.
The opening credits were an effective tool to set up the film, from awkward family pictures, to embarrassing moments on vacation, similar to random images that pop up in our newsfeed on social media. Speaking of which, the incorporation of social media within parts of the film was well done. There’s a particular spot where special guests Keegan-Michael Key and Regina Hall, portraying the Peterson’s, dine with the Griswolds. A meal where Instagram takes centre stage, in a hilariously accurate way.
Throughout the film, the use of Kissed by a Rose by Seal was utilized perfectly. It was used so well that I was singing the song all the way home, and I somehow managed to subconsciously plant the song in everyone’s mind and they too were singing along. Almost paralleling what was seen in the film. Two slow motion moments that stood out for me: the rafting sequence with special guest Charlie Day as instructor Chad, who takes the Griswolds on a wild ride. It was incredibly funny, the emotion and terror that ensued. It came down to perfect timing. Add to that the slow motion scene (and honestly I have to say I haven’t seen such a great example of the technique since Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) towards the end, a fight sequence that was monumentally summarized with the phrase, “We’re the Griswolds.”
We were all somewhat cringing during the Griswold Spring sequence. Funny in a gross type of way. Mishap upon mishap, the Griswolds then introduce us to Aunt Audrey and Uncle Stone Crandall, portrayed by Leslie Mann and Chris Hemsworth. It was between the faucet lines and cattle herding we were treated to a power pack display, which hilariously was featured for a good part of the Aunt and Uncle sequence. I’m not sure if it was just in my mind or whether others saw it too, but I could swear I saw a cheeky grin on Hemsworths face as he strode into the Griswolds room. Those abs!
Throughout the film the symbolism in the framing of the shot contributed to the storytelling, adding in that respect, as well as the comedic aspect of visual entertainment. The film did a good job in representing situations and personas that we can sometimes encounter in life. Like the way families can sometimes be embarrassing, the father passing on awkward advice (a couple of moments in the film, including a spa, advice on the birds and the bees and wingman fails), siblings saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, fighting amongst each other. The aggression and somewhat mature insensitivity of the younger brother is more a reflection on the nature of youth today. Don’t get me wrong, it was funny and some around me thought “whoa really?”. But I’ve witnessed this behavior before and you can’t help but empathise with the older brother. The change in hierarchy between the two was done well. There were moments within the film that felt a little forced and some of the lines were embellished so as to force a laugh from the audience, but overall it was an enjoyable movie.
The film includes moments such as a truck that seems to be hunting the minivan down, painful moments with tumbleweeds, a wonderful scene including a point in the US where four states meet (I’m surprised a comedic short film hasn’t been created based on the very idea of jurisdiction at that point). Throwbacks to the old film, for instance where a girl (Hannah Davis) in a red Ferrari resembles a similar sequence starring Christy Brinkley in the original Vacation.
Also starring in this remake Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, reprise their roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold. Chase whilst “cleaning” a room in his bed and breakfast, utters the phrase, “It’s not about the destination, but the journey.” A thought that really resonates with the audience.
I’m going back again, for many reasons, but the primary reason being to memorise the brilliant one-liners.