Vacation: Deftly Executed and Genuinely Funny [Review]

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It’s been 20 years or so since I saw the original Vacation and I have to admit, I wasn’t a fan.  I just didn’t find Chevy Chase funny (still don’t).  But movies have changed a lot since then and so have I.  Seeing this Vacation makes me want to go back and see it again in case I missed something.   I went into this just for the Chris Hemsworth scene (you know the one I mean) but I ended up liking the whole thing.

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Rusty Griswold takes his own family on a roadtrip to “Walley World” in order to spice things up with his wife and reconnect with his sons.

Comedy has two rules as far as I know:  1)  The protagonist can’t actually be REALLY hurt (or else he’d give up and the movie would be over) and 2)  The protagonist can’t get what they want (or else they’d be satisfied and the movie would be over).   Vacation follows these perfectly – time and time again we wonder if the Griswolds will finally get either stuck for good or catch a break, and each time they are propelled forward into an even zanier situation.   More than just being genre savvy, this movie is keenly aware of where it came from and what it’s trying to do.  The premise is carefully established, goals set up and even the previous movies were acknowledged in a witty fourth-wall-breaking moment.

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The humor was a bit hit or miss for me.  I’m not a fan of Gross-Out comedy and Awkward Situation Humor just makes me feel anxious, so there were a few moments where I had to grit my teeth and wait for the scene to end.  But these moments passed quickly and we were onto another joke.  The range of humor was broad, it wasn’t just a series of the same type of joke but instead covered a great variety of jokes.  If you don’t laugh in one scene, you’ll definitely laugh at another.  The physical comedy was particularly good.

One surprising thing was how good the storytelling was.  I’m not kidding here.  I don’t care what kind of movie you make, when you begin the action, you are essentially asking a question and you had damn well better answer it by the end of the movie (I’m looking at YOU, Jurassic World).  Vacation does that.  It’s a story about a bunch of people who don’t seem to be doing as well as the other people in their lives.  Success seems to be out of reach, whether it’s something you once had and lost or something you’ve never had and can’t really see yourself having.  We’ve all felt that ‘grass is greener’ to some degree or other and Vacation legitimately has something to say about it, albeit in a goofball often hilarious way.  This movie actually answers the question it asked.

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Though I’m pretty sure I’m not going to see this movie again (except the Chris Hemsworth scene) it was still worth watching.  Yes it’s Movie Chinese Food (you’ll be entertained for a while but bored again an hour later) but for all that it was deftly executed and genuinely (mostly) funny.

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