You have to applaud the premise behind this – to continue National Lampoon’s run of comedy vacation films from the eighties (of which, probably the ‘Christmas Vacation’ from 89 is the one most familiar to audiences now – the ‘National Lampoon’ moniker having likely been dropped from the title here as the magazine sadly bit the dust at the end of the nineties) which featured the Griswold family, with Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as the father and mother each time, as they embarked on a number of determined but disastrous family adventures. Here, Ed Helms plays the male kid of the Griswold clan Rusty, now all grown-up and married to Debbie (Christina Applegate) with a family of their own – James (Skyler Gisondo) and his younger brother Kevin (Steele Stebbins), all of whom are about to attempt a repeat of the bonding road trip to theme park extravaganza Walley World (originally a thinly veiled Disney World) that begat the film series with the first ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ (83).
The first and perhaps most noticeable overall difference is that Rusty seems to have shed a regular amount of intelligence quotient in the interim period from his childhood, and is barely recognisable as the same character anymore (although arguably this had already begun to happen by ‘National Lampoon’s European Vacation’ in 85). As the central character he is simply too dim to believe and indeed Helms’ portrayal isn’t all that far away from some of his other comedy roles, in the likes of ‘The Hangover’ trilogy for example, and this ungrounded feeling permeates, and detracts from, all of the jokes in the film (gone are great and indelible scenes like Clark’s first ‘break down moment’).
An effort to maintain continuity with the original has been maintained throughout, even though this wasn’t strictly necessary, and both Chase and D’Angelo appear briefly – it probably would have been a much better idea to have them as the central focus, taking both their kids and their grandchildren on holiday this time to … the Middle East perhaps? ‘National Lampoon’s Intervention Vacation’. Despite very few real laughs the family are still likeable enough and the film is by no means a complete failure, simply a big disappointment. With Leslie Mann, Chris Hemsworth and Charlie Day in support.