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.
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.
After 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.
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.
The 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.
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.