Some scenes do push attempts at dark and raunchy a little over the cliff, and a few gags fall short. That doesn't stop this franchise reboot from joining the ranks of its predecessors. If you can get past a few scattered clouds overhead, you will undoubtedly enjoy this film. Plenty of nostalgia has been infused throughout the movie taking most of us along for those stops...sexy babe along the road, awkward motel stay, Wally World, and, of course, non-stop family roadtrip antics. Yet, plenty of opportunities arise to bring a new chapter in a classic to the masses.
Ed Helms as a now grown Rusty Griswold brings his own affable, mensch-like charm to the role, and invokes some classic Chevy Chase (Clark Griswold). It's a good thing, too, because Chevy didn't manage to invoke himself for his short time on screen. He comes across a little angry, and completely throws away what should, by now, be standard bungling for laughter. A little over the top even for Chevy.
In all fairness, Chevy's gag isn't the only flat note. During the opening scene, Rusty (Helms) takes a break from piloting duties, and "turbulence" (in an easily foreshadowed scene) knocks him about the cabin sending him both into a woman's bosom, and her young son's lap. The discomfort carries further into the film in a particularly graphic manner with Hannah Davis taking over the Ferrari's wheel from Christie Brinkley only to be plowed down by a truck (c'mon...you've seen the trailers). I'm not even sure what to say about the pedophile truck driver.
Joining Helms in the rented (fictional) anti-semitic Albanian vacation vehicle are Christina Applegate (wife Debbie), and Skyler Gisondo (James) and Steele Stebbins (Kevin) as their feuding sons. Applegate is funny and relatable as Debbie. Although slightly underused, the now cemented comedienne makes delightful fodder of even a ridiculously exaggerated vomit scene. Gisondo and Stebbins are two very talented young men. They naturally play combative siblings to the point that I might have thought I was watching a home movie, if only my two sons were slightly older. While frustrating on the front lines, it makes for great comedy as a voyeur.
Along the way to Wally World, we make a pit stop to visit Rusty's sister, Audrey (Leslie Mann), and her weatherman husband, Stone (Chris Hemsworth). We're left wanting more of them, but, realistically, anymore might have gone stale. Maybe, in the next installment, we can see those two characters given more screen time and storyline. Another worthy mention, Charlie Day takes a turn as a suicidal guide taking the family on a hilariously scary river rafting ride almost down a waterfall. (One last spoiler...loved the monumental jurisdiction battle...you'll see...)
All in all, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (Horrible Bosses) who have taken over for John Hughes and Harold Ramis in writing and directorial duties, have made a worthy addition to the Vacation lineup. They're attempts at pushing the envelope could use wave of the suave wand, but there is sufficient to build on for a new era of Vacations. B+