Vacation (2015) Review

In 1983 Clark Griswold took his family on a road trip they would never forget, and they were going to enjoy it. Whether they liked it or not. Clark’s desperation to provide an unforgettable experience for his kid and bring the family together provided many laughs and many sequels.

Hello Griswolds!

The movie was a bit of a hit and there is a sense of fond memories surrounding it. So naturally it needed to be remade for a whole new generation to enjoy it, because as we all know you need to re-make it or it ceases to exist. Or the makers just wanted to jump on the nostalgia bandwagon and unnecessarily remake something to make a quick buck. Having watched this failed fart of a movie, I  strongly suspect it was the latter.

This time round it is Rusty (Ed Helm) who is the desperate patriarch trying to provide his family with an unforgettable holiday they’ll fondly remember for years to come. For those of you with keen memories you might remember him as the son from the original round of movies, making this more than just a straight remake. It’s sort of a reboot, or sequel of some sorts. I suspect the term ‘updated for modern audiences’ and ‘edgy’ was used in the pitch.

The story kicks of with Rusty flying a plane for an economy airline. A small child excitedly asks if he is a pilot when on the way to the toilet, which results in Rusty accidentally sexually assaulting the child’s mother during some turbulence. This provides the movies first of many ‘Really?!’ moments. Seriously, this is the 21st Century surly we have moved past the ‘accidentally on purpose feeling a woman’s breasts’. It’s a joke that feels like it belongs in a bawdy 1960s hospital, not in a film released in 2015. This scene pretty much sets up the tone for the rest of the movie, and I can promise you it only gets worse from here on in. Better buckle up because the pilot has put on the safety belt sign. 

borhtersAfter his little jaunt Rusty returns home to his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate) and two kids James, (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins). We see James, the older child being bullied by his younger brother Kevin. A running joke that doesn’t work. The writers were obviously so pleased at coming up with what they thought was a subversive idea of having the younger brother bullying the older one, that they failed to realise they would need to make the jokes funny. Or give it a decent conclusion where they learn to get along or at least have some sort of mutual respect in the end. Instead throughout we get treated to some very dull swearing and highly unimaginative name calling that relies heavily on sexism. As a result of this pathetic bantering neither of the boys feel like real people. In fact none of them feel like they are real people.

Part of the charm of the original was Clark felt like he could be real. Yes he was a bit over the top and on occasion you wondered how social services had never been called to their house. At the end of the day though he was a Dad who just wanted to spend some time with his kids, and even though they were American they all felt they could be your next door neighbours or your school chums or your work mate. This pile of one dimensional caricatures flailing about in poop and vomit are not people you want anywhere near you.

Once Rusty discovers that his family hates the annual vacation a log log cabin in Cheboygan he decides to surprise them all with a road trip to Wally World! Just like he did with his dad. The next day he comes home with a bizarre looking car, (there is a length and unfunny sequence showing just how bizarre it is)  and with trepidation the rest of the family join Rusty on a trip to Wally World.

The only real sequence Christina Applegate gets to try and stretch her comedic wings is the first stop. At her old sorority house. They are doing the annual chug Run for Asperger’s, (which provides at least two jokes around the mis-pronunciation of Ass Burgers, yes it sinks that low) which involves chugging a pitcher of beer and then attempting a Total Wipeout-esque obstacle course. Debbie gets challenged to do the chug run for the first time in twenty years, when the current sisters discover she is the famous Debby Does Anything. She gets knocked off almost immediately and proceeds to  vomit everywhere. It fell as flat as she did. There is no joke here. It’s just a woman vomiting. 

I’m not averse to gross out humour, I was raised on a diet of Farley Brothers and Adam Sandler comedies. I can handle gross humour, but there needs to be a joke to go with it. This appears to be being gross just for the sake of seeing a woman vomiting.

Raw Sewage is actually a better, and more accurate title for the movie.

After this there are scenes involving them bathing in raw sewage, Chris Hemsworth’s enormous penis, Rusty bursting through a cow, and some dangerous rapids. Each and every one more horrible than the next making you slink further and further into your seat in the hope that if you reach the ground it will just stop or turn out to be some kind of hideous dream. 

None of it works, none of it is funny. The gross out humour isn’t humour, it’s just gross. The basic plot sort of works, it’s just a series of skits loosely tied together with the vague premise of a road trip. 

_DSC6085.DNGThe one saving grace that provided a couple of laughs was the cameos. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for Kaitlin Olson and Charlie Day from their work in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but their separate cameos were some of the very few times I laughed during the 1hr 35min running time. Though when they’re gone you’re left wondering what they were doing in such a garbage heap of a movie. Maybe they lost a bet or owed a favour, or maybe they just needed the money. 

The other great cameo that provided a much needed comic relief in this festering cesspool of unfunny jokes is the man himself, Clark Griswold! That’s right Chevy chase and Beverly D’Angelo make an appearance to reprise their old roles and show these young whippersnappers how it’s done. Clark and Ellen are living conveniently close to Wally World making a perfect pit stop for Rusty and co to drop by before their final destination.

I know Chevy Chase has courted controversy in the past for his behaviour, and he might not be everyone’s favourite comedian of all time ever, but I have a soft spot for him thanks to his appearances in the video for You can Call Me Al (One of my favourite songs) and as Pierce in the sitcom Community. I got more laughs out of the five or ten minutes he was on screen then I did for the rest of the movie combined.

What you’ll look like five minutes in.

This is a truly terrible movie filled with ill-timed and disgusting jokes that land as well the pilot from Airplane! There is really very little enjoyment here for anyone, there isn’t even an element of ‘so bad it’s good’ to it. Just avoid it at all costs.



Film: Legend

Legend has recently made it’s way onto DVD, so having missed it at the cinema I thought I’d pick it up and give it a go.

I must admit, I’m a bit of a sucker when it comes to movies set in 60s swinging London. I love Austin Powers (Yeah baby!), and The Beatles’ films like Yellow Submarine, and while the film does a marvelous job of immersing you in the time period, Austin Powers this is not.

Legend does really does go to town with the 60s setting. I could feel that special buzz the time period evokes. The excitement of a city emerging from the dour and oppressive 50s shines through. The now retro designs of their surroundings, the flowery wallpaper and the ladies dresses all combine in the perfect way to make you feel a heavy nostalgia for the time period (even if, like me, you were never there).

legend dresser

We meet our protagonists wearing black suits and ties, setting the tone for the film, like the Krays themselves, this is serious business. The brutality of the brothers shines through with scenes including Reggie beating a rival gang with knuckle dusters while Ronnie beats them with a hammer to the head, where betrayers and rivals are killed with barely a moment’s notice. This is not something for the easily offended or the faint hearted.

legenf main pic

The performances are mostly on par, with some great appearances from the likes of David Thewlis as the detective always on the tail of the brothers, trying to catch them in the act and Taron Egerton as one of the lower down lackeys of the gang.  Tom Hardy does a great job of bringing not one but two of the nation’s most notorious gangsters to life. Though they were identical twins, they were very different (even physically as well as in personality) and Hardy is able to provide a distinction between the two, which limits the confusion between which twin is which, even with the similar names.
Ronnie had some serious mental health issues which is addressed early on as we are told by the Narrator (who is also Reggie’s wife) about how he was institutionalised at one point and needed constant medication to stabilise his moods. Ronnie’s homosexuality it dealt with in a mature way and gives us a glimps of his world of wild sex parties (and there’s some great tips on how to blackmail members of parliament too).  However I felt that Hardy could have gone a bit further with his portrayal of Romnie, I never really felt that I got to know him beyond that he got angry, was a terrible businessman and had kinky parties. Something similar could be said for Reggie we never really know what makes him tick, or why he’s interested in becoming London’s biggest gangster, why is it important to him?  Is it to prove a point? Get more money? Just to be a big man? Or just because he likes his brother and that’s what he wants to do? I don’t know, because it’s never really addressed. Reggie’s wife, Frances (Emily Browning) seems a little two dimensional at times as well. The relationship gets far less screen time than it should have done, I really wanted the story to get into what was happening between the two characters .

legend spank

I think this is my main problem with the film.  It tries to tell so many different aspects of the Krays, that you only get a very shallow view of their world.  Like the relationship between Reggie and Frances I don’t feel that legend was able to portray the relationship between Ronnie and Reggie as much as I would have liked. Perhaps it had something to do with Hardy playing both roles, sometimes you just need someone else there to react to and bounce off of. With the absence of a deep, clear story line I always felt like an outsider looking onto their world rather than feeling inside it. When you look back at some of the greatest gangster films like Goodfellas there is a strong main character who takes us through their journey from starting out to gaining notoriety and fame in their chosen profession, there’s a feeling of being there, being part of the action. That’s what makes those films so iconic, so great. You don’t get that with Legend. It’s narrated by Reggie’s wife which puts a certain distance between the audience and the two main characters. By trying to tell so much about what the Krays did it tells us very little about who they were, which for me, is the most interesting part of being a gangster, the human aspect. An aspect I found sadly lacking.

If you’re looking for a romp around 60s swinging London, with added violence and a twisted sense of morality then you’ve probably found something you’ll enjoy for a Saturday night at home with a take away. If you like deep characters and compelling story lines, then perhaps you’d be better sticking with a classic American gangster flick.