Film Review: Vacation

by Evan Brown

Rated MA15+. Starring Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Leslie Mann, Chris Hemsworth. Directed John Francis Daley & Jonathan M. Goldstein.

“What could go wrong?”

Let’s go back a few years – way, way back to a Friday night in the year 1999. My parents hosted their weekly Bible study in our lounge room for the local Christians of the Macquarie Fields area in Sydney. I’m twelve at this point and there isn’t too much to do at home when both your brothers are hogging the family IBM (playing Commander Keen 4) except to flick through channels on the big old cathode ray television that is conveniently yet bizarrely sitting on a Lazy Susan (did I mention my mum is full-blown Asian?) in the living room.

As I mentioned before, it’s a Friday night and back then Australian television was still going through the dark ages. The options were World News, or Burke’s Backyard which was followed by football, or the ‘Friday Night Movie of the Week’ which usually rotated through variations of National Lampoon’s Vacation or Ernest Goes to Some Place I Don’t Really Care About. Resigned to the fact that no matter what I chose I would still be pretty bored, Chevy Chase and National Lampoon won every time.  At least Chevy Chase was in it.

So it’s now Friday night, 2015 – my parent’s bible study has disbanded, my brothers have moved out (although Keen 4 is still as awesome as ever), and yet I find myself sitting in a cinema about to watch the latest instalment of the National Lampoon series titled Vacation.

We all know National Lampoon never prided itself on brilliant scripts or Oscar worthy performances but relied more so on the cringe worthy predicaments the Griswold family would get themselves in for entertainment value so my expectations were not high this movie… At least it’s not Burke’s Backyard.

The Griswolds are back in Vacation however not how we remember them.  Rusty Griswold (the previously awkward pubescent son – now played by Helms) is all grown up and has a family of his own. He and his wife Debbie (Applegate) along with their two sons James (the new pubescent awkward boy) and Kevin (the androgynous boy/girl) decide to take a road trip across America to the famous Wally World theme park in order to ignite the spark back in the family and marriage. In true National Lampoon style this trip doesn’t go so well for the Griswolds who we battle calamity after calamity, each more cringeworthy and vulgar than the last which all seem to be created and fueled by Rusty’s naivety and stupidity, compelled to get his family to their destination.

Morally there isn’t too much to take from this movie except that one should never go on family road trips with Ed Helms.  What is astonishing to me is even after catastrophe after catastrophe, calamity after calamity, cringe moment after cringe moment, Rusty Griswold is does not give up on his family and the dream of a quality family vacation.  When the family is constantly complaining and wanting to go home, Rusty, driven by the love he has for his family refuses to give up on them.

The story of the ungrateful Griswolds is in some ways very similar to how God relates to us – he is a God who is driven by the love he has for us, despite all our iniquities, all our complaints, all our ungratefulness he still loves us.

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul (a man who had previously persecuted the church and Christians) confesses to Timothy saying, in 1 Timothy 1:15-16:

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life”

Paul knew that despite his own wickedness God had shown him great patience and mercy by the gift of eternal life through of Jesus Christ.  For us there is no end to God’s patience and mercy as we too gain the gift of eternal life through Jesus.

Be advised that there’s a stack of crude jokes and sight gags in here, mostly for shock value. If you’re a fan of the National Lampoon series or just familiar with the style of catastrophic-cinema then you may well find yourself entertained for the most part… at least Chevy Chase is in it right?

For the rest of us though, there’s always Netflix. I give Vacation one-and-a-half stars and that’s mainly due to the fact Chevy Chase is in it.

Vacation releases in Australian cinemas this Thursday, 20th August. It is currently screening in the US and the UK.

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