' ' Cinema Romantico: Reviewing Vacation By Watching the Trailer

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Reviewing Vacation By Watching the Trailer

The Twitters have been ablaze just recently with film critics scolding content providers – er, other film critics(?) – about forming and unveiling full-stop opinions about movies they haven’t even seen. I mostly agree with these scoldings, of course, because it’s really no different than the prevalent yahoos who told me for years that Lady Gaga “couldn’t sing” despite having no empirical evidence to support this assertion other than the fact she, like, wore lobsters on her head and then they heard her at the Oscars and said “well golly gee, she can sing” even though she always could and...OH MY GOD MY BRAIN IS FREEZING UP. And so I understand the inherent danger in reviewing the totality of “Vacation” by simply watching the trailer. But seriously, it’s “Vacation.” It’s begging to be judged by its trailer. It wants to be judged by its trailer. Also, I refuse to spend the cash to see it. So if the “Vacation” people really think it’s more than that trailer...hey, feel free to send me a screener. I'll re-evaluate. Until then, the following is my review.

“This vacation started it all,” a title card says in the “Vacation” trailer over dusted off clips from the original “Vacation” (while playing the “Chariots of Fire” theme BECAUSE THAT'S NOT PLAYED OUT) released in the hinterland of 1983. Then it flashes forward to the future where Ed Helms has assumed the grown-up role of Clark Griswold’s semi-precocious son, Rusty. A title card tells us: “This vacation changes it all.” Well, yes and no. Because you don’t just change the formula of formulaic movies. That’s like changing the recipe of the Big Mac! That’s a marketing sin! And no sin, with all due respect to God, stings like those in marketing departments worldwide. So Rusty, like his father before him, sets off on a cross-country road trip to the theme park Walley World with his family.

Now you might be thinking, why would grown-up Rusty embark on the exact same road trip of yore when he knows full well it will only yield excruciating hijinks? Has he learned nothing? Well of course he hasn’t. We remember these things, sure, and claim to learn from them, absolutely, and sometimes we do, but we employ that knowledge not to avert disaster but to prove to disaster that it has no mastery over us. We are man, see, and we are superior. What befell my father before can certainly not befall me too. It can, of course, and it will, as it must, because otherwise what would “Vacation” be?

Still, even as Christina Applegate is forced to wade in Beverly D’Angelo’s Supportive Spouse shoes, sacrificing all the best moments to leading man, which, sadly, isn’t so much Retro as Eternal, “Vacation” is updated for its era. We couldn’t possibly allow someone as goofy and gangly as Randy Quaid have so much screen time in a 2015 major motion picture so his part is handed off to a preening Chris Hemsworth instead. Simply allowing The Girl In The Ferrari – played by Christie Brinkley in the original and by Hannah Davis in the update – to tease and torment the leading man without receiving a comeuppance isn’t allowable, so Ms. Davis gets run over and, presumably, killed straight away, because we are a temperate culture these days that does not believe in any way that violence is an answer for attempting a little roadside seduction of a married man. And Rusty and his obligatorily-less-funny half can’t have a son and a daughter. Heavens no! They must have two sons because this is the twenty-tens and we have come a long, long way since 1983 in gender politics, people. (You expect the two dudes that wrote “Horrible Bosses” to have even the vaguest notion of how to write for an adolescent girl?! HA HA HA!!! JOKE’S ON YOU!!!)

The trailers fills out its patchy parts with wacky cameos and is sure to indulge in an extended human excrement joke which necessarily placates that pubescent desire to joke around about such things because it was forbidden at the dinner table. By the end, you feel almost certain you’ve seen the whole movie, even if you quite clearly haven’t because feature films aren’t two-and-a-half minutes long. Even so, there are jokes, there is Chevy Chase turning up, and even if I don’t know precisely how it ends, I don’t really need to. And that, of course, is because while we all recite some variation at the end of vacations about how all vacations must end eventually, this is one vacation that obviously will not. It will play in perpetuity with (a young actor) playing Rusty’s grown-up son taking his kids to Walley World even if it’s been flooded off the face of the earth due to melting glaciers on account of climate change. He won’t care, of course, because he can’t, because the show must go on, and it will, forever and ever. And no matter who winds up playing the grown-up version of Rusty’s son thirty-two years from now, someone like Seraphina Rose Elizabeth Affleck will be chilling in the passenger’s seat, rolling her eyes, ceding all the funny lines and humorous gags, because even as Earth marches on, Hollywood make no progress.

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