Wednesday 26 August 2015

Vacation ... Family fun

THE premise of Vacation is nothing new. A family in the funk pack up their bags and go on a
cross-country holiday to renew their ties, laugh more and appreciate what they have. This is the basis of transformative travel. 
  John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, the writers and directors, are basing their film on the 1982 film of the same name, starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo, who appear in the 2015 film.
  After watching their film, I stepped out of the theatre with a bounce in my step.
   The directors have done well to show a family that are out of sorts, with pilot husband Rusty Griswold  (Ed Helms of The Hangover trilogy) being pushed around and ignored at work and at home, and wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) wishing the family didn't go to their cabin by the lake for the umpteenth time. 
   She dreams of Paris (I've been there) after a married black female friend recounts her exploits there with her family. The friend's husband is super friendly with his own son, giving the latter lots of high fives, hugs and pats. 
   This makes Rusty uncomfortable, as white  people are just not into physical contact. A case in point is Jerry (Tom Cruise) of Jerry Maguire (1996) squirming in his seat next to his wife when his black player client (Cuba Gooding Jr) effusively showers his own wife with affection.
   Rusty is a pilot for a small low-cost airline. He has a decent heart (he speaks up to keep an elderly pilot with the firm), but his efforts to impress a boy about being a pilot end up with him inadvertently grabbing the boy's mum's breasts. 
   Also, a pilot for a bigger airline cuts in front of him in a queue, and he doesn't even let out a squeak. 
    His sensitive eldest teenage son James (Skyler Gisondo) is bullied by his youngest son Kevin (Steele Stebbins) mercilessly. For example, Kevin puts a plastic bag over James' head and watches him thrash about gasping for air.
   Rusty wants to recreate the feeling of his own dad taking the family on a trip to an amusement park in California. He idealises that trip and hopes hitting the road to the same park will bring the family closer.
   Naturally, as in all cross-country family trips, nothing goes right at the beginning. However, it also shows people's true colours. A stop at Debbie's alma mater reveals her racy past. A discussion later reveals that she would like more variety in their love-making. 
  Debbies is what I'd call a sex-positive woman. It used to be that men played the field while the women were reserved about their sexual experimentations. 
  The tables are now turned. Debbie tells a shocked Rusty that she had had 30 lovers before him, while the latter can lift only three fingers. Debbie's like Amy (Amy Schumer) of Trainwreck, in which a sexually promiscuous woman who must give up her raucous past to find love with a nice, safe and geeky man.
   Rusty and his family stop by his sister Audrey's (Leslie Mann of This is 40) home. Audrey has just given birth to a child with hunky blond TV weatherman Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth of Thor). The sister and husband put up a loving and hands-on display, and Stone's charm and flattery excite Debbie, who pounces on Rusty in bed.
   Stone later displays an impressive appendage, but I presume it's like the one used
Ed Helms and Christina Applegate are dumbstruck
by Chris Hemsworth's appendage. 
by Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights (1997). 
   Taking a trip makes people do funny things, such as when Rusty and Debbie spontaneously decide to have sex at a public monument, with amusing results.
   I found the jokes funny and I laughed out loud a few times. The key to the film is Rusty's eagerness and simplicity, which are sweet.
  The downside to the film, however, is its adherence to film convention and themes. They say the end is more important than the journey, but if the journey is hackneyed, you have no choice but to just go along for the ride.

3 out of 5 stars

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