Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Vacation [2015]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O)  ChicagoTribune (0 Stars) (1 Star)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review  

Vacation [2015] (screenplay and directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein characters based on those created by John Hughes in Vacation [1983]) "is what it is" ...  Like the Harold Ramis directed, Chevy Chase / Beverly D'Angelo starring original, it's an appropriately R-rated "family comedy" that has its laughs, seeks at times to gross-out and yet is fundamentally family supporting, indeed "pro-Family."  As such, like the 1983 original, I do believe that the film will almost certainly be embraced by the vast majority of the families, both "Anglo" (mostly Slavic) and Hispanic, of a parish like mine and probably the vast majority of Catholic families across the country even as it is at times unnecessarily crude and in a strict sense deserves the "O" (morally offensive) rating that the CNS/USCCB gives it.

So why give a film an endorsement even as it is, again strictly speaking, morally offensive?  I think I do so because I do believe that a lot of families will see themselves (or their shadows) within it.

The now grown Rusty Griswald (played in wonderful "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" fashion by Ed Helms) has basically become his dad (played marvelously by Chevy Chase in the original).  He's become both an airline pilot (!) and "a loser" _choosing_ (we find out later) to fly for a ridiculously small-time regional airline called Econoair: "Welcome to our 18 minute flight from South Bend to Chicago..." is his first line in the film ;-).

His wife, former sorority girl, but now later-30-something mom Debbie (IMHO wonderfully captured by Christina Applegate) is an increasingly forced-smile "trooper" who's trying _really hard_ to remain "nice" but is obviously increasingly disappointed at the pedestrian state of their lives/marriage: "Remember Rusty when you were training to be a pilot?  You / we were supposed to be flying to Paris [and here you're flying back and forth between Ft. Wayne and Chicago]."  "Yes honey, but this way I can be home each night ..." (and he sincerely means it ;-)

Their two boys are priceless(ly disappointing/disconcerting ;-).  There's 14-15 year old "übersensitive" James (played by Skyler Gisondo) who plays the acoustic guitar, keeps "a dream journal" and writes poetry, while his 10-12 year old younger brother Kevin (played by Steele Stebbins) is just plain Evil ;-).

After Rusty comes home after his last 18 minute flight of the day between some random town in Indiana /  SW Michigan and Chicago (and after waiting 25 minutes for the "next shuttle" to his car ;-) ;-) he's confronted by James complaining: "Daaaad, see what Kevin did!" (In indelible ink, Kevin wrote on James' guitar "I have a vagina").  Kevin protests: "But dad, I swear he does!"  "Now Kevin, you know that's not true."  "But it is!"  "Dooo something dad," James begs.  "Don't worry James, we'll fix this." (Rusty takes Kevin's marker, crosses out "vagina" and writes "penis" instead), "but for now, this will have to do" ... and proceeds to look for Debbie to give her a kiss ;-).

LOL ... domestic life today:  One son "can't tie his own shoelaces" (without "dreaming" about them...) and the other one may well grow-up to be a school shooter ;-)

Anyway, facing a family revolt about "vacation" this year (NO ONE 'cept him wants to go to the "some ole cabin" in Cheboygan, Michigan), Rusty comes up with the idea of re-creating the 1983 trip to "Wally World" that _he_ took with his family back when he was James / Kevin's age.  "But dad, I don't even remember you talking about that vacation."  "Don't worry son, this vacation will stand on its own."  Much ensues ...

This includes a stop at Debbie's alma mater Memphis State U, where Rusty finds out that the sisters at her sorority still remember her as the legendary "Debbie does Anything...," another stop at a ranch in Texas, where Rusty's sister Audrey (played here by Leslie Mann) is now married to a ridiculously well-endowed looker / dumb-DUMB-Ass "TV meteorologist" named Stone Crandall (played by an ever smiling / often "prosthetic wearing," one hopes anyway ... Chris Hemsworth ;-); and a final pre-Wally World stop in San Francisco, visiting mom and dad, Clark and Ellen Griswald (played by Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo) at their characteristically well-meaningly but incompetently run B&B.

Honestly, it's a heck of a ride (again).  The R-rating is certainly deserved, but honestly, it's also an "R-rated FAMILY movie" which REGULAR Catholics from Boston to Scranton to Gary to L.A. would certainly understand: Family life is _often corny_, it's often a sacrifice, often "not like what one would want it to be" but it ALSO brings with it all kinds of wonderful, unexpected joys.

And as a final, somewhat spoiler alert:  Rusty does find a way to take Debbie to Paris.  How, I'm not going to reveal, but it is appropriate, funny, kind and ... appreciated.  Again, thankfully Debbie's also and above all "a trooper" ;-)

Great film!

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