In the 1980s, Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo played hapless parents Clark and Ellen Griswold in three raucous comedies under the National Lampoon banner, which reflected the exquisite agony of spending quality time with loved ones during the holidays.
Vacation, European Vacation and Christmas Vacation mined a rich vein of universal humour grounded in sibling rivalry and miscommunication between the generations.
Writer-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M Goldstein’s contemporary update borrows the title of the first film and recycles the central plot but spatters the heartfelt sentiment with a thick layer of filth.
Elegance and sophistication are strangers to a lumbering script peppered with paedophilia and projectile vomiting, that isn’t averse to an in-joke about the film’s hand-me-down origins.
‘I’ve never heard of the original Vacation,’ remarks a teenager.
‘Doesn’t matter. The new Vacation will stand on its own,’ responds his father.
It doesn’t – the new film is on its knees, wretching and wretched, from its crass opening.
As a boy, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) undertook an epic cross-country trip to the Walley World theme park with his family.
More than 30 years later, Rusty is a commercial pilot for Econo Air with a beautiful wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and two sons: sensitive teenager James (Skyler Gisondo), who plays a guitar, and foul-mouthed bully Kevin (Steele Stebbins), who torments his older brother.
For years, Rusty has taken his clan to a log cabin in Michigan for their summer holiday, but when he overhears his wife bemoaning the predictability of the excursion, he surprises the Griswolds with an impromptu road trip to Walley World.
En route, the Griswolds insult a rapist trucker (Norman Reedus), make a pit-stop at the home of Rusty’s sister Audrey (Leslie Mann) and her weatherman husband (Chris Hemsworth), and seek relaxation at a natural spring.
The pungent brown goo, which the Griswolds smear on their faces, believing it to be mineral-enriched mud, is a fitting summation of this joyless and charmless comedy of errors.
Characters have no depth and none of the central clan is particularly likeable.
The script aggressively peddles puerile humour, liberally spraying bodily fluids and entrails over the actors, while Hemsworth’s slight contribution is reduced to posing in his underwear with a sizeable protrusion to draw the eye.
Cameos by Chase and D’Angelo provide a brief waft of sweet nostalgia to momentarily counteract the stink of everything else.