Both the characters and the tone have been updated as a new generation of Grizwolds hits the road for a raucous holiday, eliminating the darker edges for a sillier, ruder romp. After the four madcap Vacation movies from 1983 to 1997, the focus moves from Chevy Chase's patriarch Clark to his now-grown son Rusty. As with the earlier films, there are so many jokes flying at the screen that some are bound to make us laugh.
Ed Helms is the fifth actor in five films to play Rusty, and now he's got a family of his own. So he decides to give them a holiday to remember, retracing his childhood trip from Chicago to Wally World in California. His wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) isn't so sure about this, but gamely goes along with it, while their bickering teen sons James and Kevin (Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins) settle into the back seat for the long drive. Along the road, they stop at Debbie's old university and learn a few things about her wild reputation. They also visit Rusty's sister Audrey (Leslie Mann) in Texas, where she's married to a swaggering rancher (Chris Hemsworth). And they drop in on Rusty's parents (Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo). In between, every stop brings a new moment of crazed mayhem.
The script is set up as an homage to the original movie, playfully riffing on the structure and set-pieces. Here, the comedy highlights include a dodgy natural hot springs and a death-defying bit of white-water rafting. All of this is infused with a surprisingly warm family dynamic amid constant gags about excrement and genitalia. Miraculously, writer-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein never get cynical about the Grizwolds. Rusty and Debbie are still hot for each other, while James and Kevin's vicious rivalry only reveals how much they look out for each other. All four actors are solid, with terrific comical timing and likeable performances.
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