Holiday Blowed

Boundaries. Comedies need them. Vacation has none.

Chevy Chase-starring Vacation’s were timid films. They’re awkward, uncomfortable, and slightly satirical stabs at families wandering the country (or their homes). Each was a cascading series of immense failures – believable failures – to relate back or draw comparisons to real world memories.

The Ed Helms-starring Vacation has an Albanian car with two gas tanks, an electrical cord, and a bumper-ejecting button with a bunny on it. Cars don’t have those. Or a swastika button, but that joke in Vacation never pays off.

Vacation 2015 has no sense of the subtle. It instantly slides into raunch during a Memorial Day road trip. Jokes are remarkable in their consistency – each is crude and reaching. Helms’ Rusty Griswold, now set on a family road trip from Illinois to California’s vaunted Walley World, has nothing to play off. Some seven people have played Rusty’s role now. Helms is free to do as he wishes, so he plays dopey dad. He fondles breasts during airplane turbulence, swims in sewer water, and tries to sing Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose.” A lot.

The film recognizes the original Vacation in an odd bit of cinematic pandering, really more of a fourth wall breach, to set-up expectations. “This vacation will stand on its own.” The trailers spoiled that one though. Marketing spoiled any of the good ones, actually. That means there are two successes in 90-minutes.

Vacation ’83 took place on Earth. Much of Vacation ’15 seems to have emanated from an alien transmission.

Warner’s remake/reboot/sequel (the film never appears sure) is surreal in the absolute meaning of the term. Vacation ’83 took place on Earth. Much of Vacation ’15 seems to have emanated from an alien transmission. Vacation is the ultimate hand-over-head whiff, where purpose and tone is so bludgeoned, what remains is indefensible mush.

Hardly a person exists in this movie who is not a complete dolt. Helms’ father figure creeps from the shadows to interrupt his son’s hot tub dating session, oblivious to his status as a silhouetted child molester. Christina Applegate, his on-screen wife, is in shambles as she reconnects to her college dorm days in a forced binge drinking sequence. And the kids – ugh. Vacation searches for a gag by having a 10-year old say “vagina.” Also a lot.

People die in this movie, and not in a morbid, awkward “leave dead Aunt Edna on the back porch” sort of funny way. It has a body count. A Vacation movie with a body count – how quaint and approachable.

Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo are there to save it in the end, given two scenes to work before the movie descends further into an all too easy dogpile of stupidity. It’s a shame they’re featured at all. Without them, Vacation ’15 could be written off as disconnected from the rest, as bizarre a film as Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure. At least Cousin Eddie had the station wagon. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]

Hooray! @ 1:21:45

Pedestrian as the appearance may be, Vacation produces clean, digitally sourced images. Little has been tweaked. Color proves firm, with a bevy of primaries in view. Flesh tones are pure without color grading taking effect.

Images maintain consistency and resolution. Exteriors as the car passes through a number of famed locations are superb. Cliffs and rock formations in the West are detail showcases. That fidelity level carries into the close-ups, revealing facial definition even if impact by obvious green screens in the car.

There is help from the contrast, always rich. Some highlights push a little far, but maintain depth. The same goes for black levels, tested multiple times whether at night in a hotel or during a stroll to The Four Corners Monument.

One instance of noise is the only bother and part of the original source. A roller coaster ride was obviously shot by a different camera, possibly a GoPro. This brief ending sequence is not a loss considering the 90-minutes which surround the scene. Warner’s compression work is commendable here. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

Despite limited opportunity, Vacation sets a capable DTS-HD soundstage. An action scene involving a truck on a freeway has cars panning through the speakers and a few hefty crashes which do recede into the LFE. Ambiance is splendid too, fully heard at parties and later, a park. Rear and stereo channels find work while in balance.

The soundtrack has weight, catching substantially in the subwoofer. A waterfall drop will match, as will the truck engine which has multiple appearances to its credit. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

Return to Wally World begins a fine (but brief) set of bonus features, this one focused mostly on Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo for 10 minutes. The Griswold Odyssey which follows goes scene-by-scene, from the idea to the shoot itself to its eventual closure (18:23). A gag reel is too brief (1:32) and deleted scenes for a movie like this too long (12:13). A brief bonus detailing the location shoot is like a commercial for Georgia. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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