We could all use a Vacation.
2015 has, for the most part, provided great films in every genre except The R-rated comedy. A few forgettable efforts have come and gone this year, like Ted 2, Get Hard, and Trainwreck, but this weekend, 2015 finally delivers a memorable and hilarious movie: Vacation.
Vacation is a sequel to 1983's National Lampoon's Vacation, so fans of the original film franchise will get extra mileage from 2015's recreation of the magical cross country road trip. But fear not, younglings (who are old enough for this R-Rated escapade), you can understand every joke and moment without seeing a prior Vacation movie.
Ed Helms (The Hangover) takes the role of all-grown-up Rusty Griswold. His marriage feels stale, his kids can't get along, and he feels a bit empty. So naturally, he rents a Tartan Prancer for a cross country road trip to get the juices flowing again. His wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate) and children, James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins), are almost unanimously against the trip, but Rusty's relentless effort to recreate his childhood wins. And we should all be glad it did.
Helms has shown his comedic chops plenty of times throughout his career. He broke out on the big screen in 2009 with The Hangover and has had a few more big screen roles, but none display his masterful comedic abilities quite like Vacation. As the new franchise patriarch, Helms is burdened with taking command of Vacation, which he does in a first-rate manner. His comedic precision and delivery during scenes which would otherwise be over-the-top, gross, or cheesy, help make Vacation the funniest movie of the summer.
One young star better be popping up elsewhere following this film and it's Steele Stebbins. The young actor has merely played a couple of parts in horror films before going on Vacation but the movie belongs to Stebbins. The entire cast has moments to shine--and they shine bright indeed-- but Stebbins pulls away with some of the funniest lines delivered with precision only a seasoned comedy vet could pull off.
Vacation is a movie that's not only quotable but visually memorable. Whether the audience's car ride home consists of quotes from Rusty and the family or recounting of the time Debbie pitifully tried to relive her sorority days, the abs get a workout from laughing so hard. Afterwards, the whole audience probably looked something like Chris Hemsworth's hilarious half-naked bit in the film. Okay, laughing with Vacation won't make you look like a hammer-wielding Norse God, but the point is, you'll laugh hard, you'll laugh long, and you'll laugh often. There's no doubt Vacation crosses lines and earns its R-rating, but unlike Ted 2, it uses the inappropriate humor with style rather than saying completely outrageous phrases nobody else will in order to stand out.
The best part of Vacation is its relevance to today's world. Unlike Trainwreck which appeals to a niche audience, or Pixels, where the humor caters to seasoned audiences, Vacation finds itself checking all the right boxes for the today's cinema-goers. A few snippets are excessive, like when the family dives into a swamp of human waste thinking it a hot spring, but for the majority, Vacation's writing balances raunch and heart liked a skilled tightrope walker. The writers, John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, who previously penned Horrible Bosses, will soon have to tune down the maturity meter when they take on Marvel's Spider-Man reboot for 2017, but their ability here and throughout their resumés should reassure any skeptics that they have the talent, wit, and plotting chops.
Not only will audiences be surprised by Vacation's laughs, but also by it's cameos - especially within comic book film genre. There is one specific cameo that will satisfy the geek and super hero community and just when you think you've caught the big cameo, there's an even bigger and better appearance from a current pop culture icon lingering right around the corner. It's clear that Vacation took extra steps to please everyone. Where Entourage poured in cameos to make you say, "Oh, look! It's T.I.! And there's Jon Favreau and Rob Gronkowski!" Vacation takes advantage of its guest actors for genuinely funny roles.
Vacation stands on its own legs while respectfully paying its dues to the its predecessors from the 80's. It's a movie that everyone who needs a good laugh or quick getaway must see.
Bottom Line: Vacation has the wit of The Hangover, the charm of Wedding Crashers, and the appropriate amount of inappropriateness of We're The Millers. It rolls relentlessly across the country on all cylinders from start to finish as the funniest film of 2015. 9.0/10