Vacation - Cinema Review

'Far better than it perhaps deserves, or indeed anyone expected a return to this franchise to be'.

The "soft reboot" train continues to gather pace as it chugs across 2015, with franchises from all areas of cinema's past jumping on board showing flagrant disregard as to whether a new entry is either wanted or needed. Vacation is perhaps one of the strangest selections from the current part-sequel-part-remake crop for the simple fact that, despite the affection the 1983 original National Lampoon's Vacation is held in by many, it's hard to imagine anyone particularly hankering after either a continuation or update of either the original film or its franchise. With three sequels already spawned, the last of which - Vegas Vacation - appeared in 1997 to a distinct lack of fanfare, perhaps the Griswalds were best left in the 20th Century.

In spite of this, however, Vacation for the most part manages to capture what made the original such an easy film to enjoy. This is unchallenging entertainment that's light on plot development and heavy on throwaway laughs which, far more often than not, hit their target. Vacation never feels like a desperate attempt at modernising the 1983 film either. Aside from a slightly forced gag about "liking" Facebook photos and a few jokes about the technology housed in the family's Albanian-made car, much of the humour here wisely isn't tied into a specific time period, potentially future-proofing Vacation to an extent from becoming dated. Likewise, a few welcome references to the original are included, but anyone who's never heard of Marty Moose or Walley World before now will also be just fine.

Road movies are by definition much more about the journey itself than the reason it's being made, something Vacation keeps in mind through delivering what could in many ways be a series of vignettes on a sketch show. Inevitably, some are more successful than others, but most offer at least a few satisfying laughs. The cameos crop up regularly but are not overdone, including a welcome if somewhat brief return from Chevy Chase and Beverley D'Angelo, and the most successful by far from Chris Hemsworth as the well-endowed brother-in-law of Griswald patriarch Rusty (Ed Helms).

The main cast also keep things enjoyable. Christina Applegate is reliably entertaining if a little underutilised; Helms meanwhile channels Chase's performance from the original, largely getting away with it whilst never reaching quite the same level of success. Vacation won't win any prizes for originality or innovation, but it's also undemanding and fun - as well as turning out far better than it perhaps deserves, or indeed anyone expected a return to this franchise to be.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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