When Harold Ramis passed away last year, a comedic legend was lost. But while most people who look back at Ramis will see Dr. Egon Spengler from the Ghostbusters films, his greatest achievements came from beyond the camera where he directed classics like Caddyshack, Groundhog Day and National Lampoon's Vacation. Fast-forward a trio of decades and a promising young team of writers and directors, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, turn to funnyman Ed Helms to revive the Griswold's family legacy. And let's just say, Harold Ramis wouldn't be disappointed with their decision.
When regional pilot and a grown up Rusty Griswold (Helms) detects some serious troubles at home, he decides to spice things up by taking his unenthusiastic family on a road trip to the majestic theme park from his childhood, "Walley World". But in typical Griswold tradition, what was supposed to be a fun-filled bonding experience turns into a hellish road trip that pushes each of them to their respective limits. Yet, if they can just make it to "Walley World" and ride the epic Velociraptor roller coaster, perhaps the trip will be worth it after all.
Unlike many (and I do mean many) 21st century comedies that rely on shock value to generate amusement from its crowd, Vacation finds humor in a reminiscently familiar place. Capturing all of the mannerisms and bone-headed charm of former patriarch, Clark Griswold (played by Chevy Chase), Ed Helms gives a nostalgic performance that is a breath of fresh air from all of these poorly written and contemporary comedies. The writing and directing duo, Daley and Goldstein, mold together a brilliant concoction of the older films with some modern edgy twists that allow Vacation to stand as a solid film all on its own. Each new member of the Griswold family plays a vital role to the story and truly encapsulates the all-for-one tradition of the iconic franchise.
Despite many riotous laughs and unforgettable scenes, Vacation fails to go from start to finish without a hiccup. There are a handful of over-the-top and unrealistic situations that would usually plague a film such as this, but Helms and his co-stars always guide the audience back to the Griswold family norm, which is too good of a place to resist. Another noticeable blemish resides in the somewhat hefty collection of jokes that don't pan out. Although these moments are sporadic but evident throughout the entire film, it becomes routine to let them pass by with ease as more of Vacation's cheeky and hysterical humor is always quick to follow.
In an age where reboots, remakes and sequels are typically off-base and disappointing, Vacation serves as a tolerable reminder of when a new branding is handled with respect and class. And while I must caution that the film is by no means an instant classic like its original source material, this new entry delivers an abundance of laughs and proves to be a worthy inclusion to the franchise. The actors go all-out and it pays huge dividends by the time the credits roll. If you're a fan of the Griswolds, then you might as well take a chance at reliving another adventure with one of our favorite movie families.