“Don’t make me turn this car around” sounds like a genuine threat unless the destination is New Salem, Ill.
Maybe the contemptuous Griswold boys should try making the trip from Chicago to Wally World packed between and under six siblings in the back seat of an old (even then) Chevy Nova like clowns on their way to perform at a Shrine Circus instead of stretching out in their new Tartan Prancer (“The Honda of Albania”). Such is the thanks my dad got … err, I mean Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) gets trying to make meaningful memories in the “Vacation” franchise reboot.
Under the guise of infusing excitement into a family (and unbeknownst to him, a marriage) that has otherwise slipped into a rut, Rusty proposes they re-create the high point of his own childhood: a road trip to the fabled California amusement park introduced in the 1983 classic comedy based on John Hughes’ ersatz adventure.
A family man like his father, Clark (Chevy Chase, who has a small cameo here), Rusty foregoes a lucrative career for one that keeps him close to home. He flies puddle-jumper routes for EconoAir, whose motto is, “We’re working hard to regain your trust.”
So with only a hostile-sounding Korean GPS to guide them, they agitate the pavement overcoming, like the film’s progenitor, a series of comical mishaps. In Memphis, for instance, Rusty learns his wife was the sorority legend “Debbie Do Anything” (Christina Applegate, so not really a stretch if you think about it). In Arkansas, they take shortcut directions from a vagrant walking by and find themselves swimming in a raw sewage pond. And in Colorado, a suicidal rafting guide takes them for a ride down the stream less traveled.
Helms’ innocent/sincere comic style (“Cedar Rapids,” “The Hangover”) works perfectly here. And there is enough of the original’s vibe to please existing fans while attracting the next generation of them. Some parts are over the top — brother-in-law Chris Hemsworth’s bulge jumps out at me — though the “Thor” star is otherwise very funny; his and Rusty’s morning cattle roundup has an epic finish that gives drive-through burger joints a new literal meaning.
Solid laughs from this worthy successor.