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.

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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.

sewage
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.

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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.

☆☆☆☆

 

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John Hughes: The Best of the Worst

John Hughes is a bastion of teen movies, he practically invented the modern teen movie.

If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, the chances are John Hughes helped you to get in touch with your acne covered, slightly greasy, hormonal feelings!

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Hughes gave us some great movie moments. There’s the emotionally charged scene in The Breakfast Club (you know, the one where we found out Emilio Estevez is a person as well as a jock, and The nerd can’t make an elephant lamp). Ferris Bueller somehow getting away with destroying his friend’s Dad’s car. Let’s not forget Kevin McCallister beating a couple of inept burglars with a house of tricks. So sometimes it can be easy to forget just how many duffers he squeezed out the nib of a pen.

john hughes home alone

Ladies and Gentlemen I am here with you today to give you five reasons that John Hughes, should have stuck to capers involving children being abandoned and teenagers coming to terms with growing up.

So, let’s start at the end:

5. Drillbit Taylor (2008, 1hr 50mins, 12A)

john hughes drillbit

The classic tale of little kids getting even with their bullied.

So, take three nerds, some bullies and an older father type figure who helps them to overcome their demons. It’s like the Karate Kid but with a pathetic loser instead of Mr Miyagi. And there’s three of them.

Most of the jokes involve rather terrible slapstick and Owen Wilson (as the eponymous Drillbit Taylor, our Mr Miyagi) pretending to be cool when he clearly isn’t. At least Mr Miyagi was legit.

Hughes used a pseudonym, Edmond Dantes and you can tell why. Maybe he didn’t want people to remember him with this film, the very last before his death in 2009

4. Maid in Manhattan (2002, 1hr 45mins, PG)

john hughes maid in manhatten

Where to begin with this festering, cesspool of a movie? This was a pretty big hit back in the day, grossing $155 million worldwide. It became the go to date movie of late ‘02 and early ‘03, and middle age ladies love watching it on a Saturday afternoon with a bowl of Chunky Monkey.

So, why is this movie so terrible? People clearly like it. Well we’ll start with the acting, Jennifer Lopez as Marisa Ventura is so wooden she could be picked up to stir your favourite cake batter with. Ralph Fiennes as the bajillionaire that rescues Marisa from her terrible life was also pretty bad, but in his defense he does his best with what he’s got. Which isn’t much.

The script is Awful, you can tell that it was heavily influenced by Pretty Woman, as it’s essentially the same story. Only told less well and even more patronising to women. Hey girls! If you want to get away from your life of drudgery and awfulness, just meet a rich, white dude. He’ll be amazed at how novel poor people are and buy you nice thing

3. Curly Sue (1991, 1hr 41mins, PG)

john hughes curly sue

Upon it’s release Curly Sue was a a bit of a flop, and gained a lot of criticism from critics and fans alike.

The story centres around a homeless man with a heart of gold, Bill Dancer (Jim Belushi). Along with his plucky sidekick, Curly sue (Alisan Porter), a young child about the age of 8. They pulls scams, not to get money, because that would be wrong, but to get food to eat, that’s survival, so it’s OK.

Apart from some loose back story revealing Bill knew Curly’s (Or Sue’s?) mother and agreed to look after her once her mother died it’s not really clear why he didn’t just dump this irritating little weasel as soon as he could.

She’s just. So. Annoying! She has a whiney voice and shows a level of cutesy precociousness not witnessed since Shirley Temple sang about her Goodship Lollypop.

Then, one day they try and scam a fancy lawyer. They end up getting invited to stay the night in her house, and in what I am sure will be a shock twist to you all. She ends up falling in love with Bill, the homeless guy that tried to scam her for free food. How adorable.

Most of this film doesn’t make sense, the characters are two dimensional and (as previously stated) really annoying. This film did so badly, Hughes actually dropped out of the business of show for a little bit. Not for long though as the next year he saved himself with Home Alone II

2. She’s Having a Baby (1988, 1hr 46mins, 15)

 john hughes shes baby

Hughes didn’t want to be typecast, over his 30 year career he tried his hand at many genres, from pure kids’ movies (Home Alone), to teen movies,(Pretty in Pink) and Comedy movies (The Vacation series). Some genres he could tap into and others he just couldn’t get the hang of. Adult drama, unfortunately falls into the latter category.

It’s about a newly married couple learning how to be married. An interesting concept, getting married is a pretty big change in people’s lives, you have to learn to adjust and compromise and make big decisions together. Like weather or not to have a baby.  

Like other films on this  list, the catalogue of errors is present, the bad acting, terrible direction. Awful dialogue and a script that doesn’t always make sense. You have zero sympathy for the characters as Kevin Bacon’s character, Jake Briggs drops out of his Master’s degree, seemingly because he got scared of not being good enough. Meanwhile Kirsty Briggs (Ally Sheedy) just randomly stops taking birth control without telling her husband. I’m all for women being in charge of their own bodies, but having a baby affects both of you… At least tell the guy! By the end, when they eventually have the baby they have learnt so little and seem like such terrible people you really wish they hadn’t just procreated.

 

And the winner of worst John Hughes movie is

1. Mr. Mom (1983, 1hr 31mins, PG)

john hughes mr mom

A man has to look after a child. Hilarity ensues. This should be enough to tell you all that you need to know about this movie. That and the poster, just look at it! You know you’re in for a hilarious time when you see a man wearing rubber gloves and carrying a baby.

I know that this film is over 30 years old now, and some allowances must be given for historical context. Even with that in mind, this is really just. Anger inducing.

So, Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) loses his job. So wife, Caroline (a housewife of many years) has to go out to work. After a few japes involving terrible slapstick and pooey nappy jokes Jack starts to get the hang of this child care and cleaning malarky. However, after a while he starts to find this life a little constricting (he’s learning what it’s like to be a woman in the 80s… How very progressive!). Then his neighbours start coming onto him. Let’s face it all housewives are horny and just want to sleep with whoever is going, married or not.

I’m sure at the time it was thought of as being progressive, it was only 4 years later we got Three Men and a Baby (a much better film following a similar theme) but it’s just misguided. Caroline works for an ad executives, and they want to hire her based on her housewife know how, they might as well have patted her on the head and said ‘now now pretty lady, we need someone who knows about these… Women’s things’. Eurgh.