Vacation Review

Vacation (2015) movie posterSynopsis
In effort to reconnect with his wife and kids, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) takes his family on a cross-country trip to Walley World like his family did thirty years ago.

Review
One of Hollywood’s go-to moves lately has been revisiting franchises that have been dormant for 20 or 30 years and making sequels or remakes or reboots. Often, these attempts are not received well. Movies like Dumb and Dumber To or Total Recall fail to capture that certain something that made the original films so popular and beloved in the first place, attempting to cash in on nostalgia rather than make a film that is worth its legacy. Vacation, more of a sequel than reboot, falls into this category. And like all the others, it’s a pale comparison to the films that came before it.

I will admit that this film did make me laugh. In the same way the 1983 Vacation was a good fit for Chevy Chase’s style of humor, this Vacation highlights Ed Helms’ comedic talents. The types of jokes and gags it has are a bit juvenile at times and what I call “stupid funny” but honestly, it makes me laugh. If you’ve seen Helms’ films like Cedar Rapids or The Hangover then you’ll have a sense of what to expect from him. The dynamic between the two Griswold kids, James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins), was unexpected and created for some humorous moments. Chris Hemsworth continues to prove that he can do comedy as well as he does action. His timing and delivery are spot-on. If the Vacation franchise somehow manages to continue, he should be the Cousin Eddie of the “reboot.”

In movies like this one, there is an extra emphasize on homages that try to cash in on the nostalgia of the franchise. Sometimes the filmmakers go overboard with the callbacks that feels like they are pandering to the audience. Luckily, Vacation doesn’t fall into that trap; it has just the right amount of references to the previous films, particularly the original Vacation, that it doesn’t feel heavy-handed or too much.

I think the what I was most disappointed about was the portrayal of Rusty. I know it’s around thirty years after the original Vacation but this Rusty seems like more of a push-over than what was portrayed in the other films. As much as I like Helms, his personality doesn’t match the Rusty we’ve seen in the four previous films. Maybe it’s just me but that’s how I felt. I think it was less of how Helms portrayed Rusty and more of how the part was written.

Another problem with making a film simply to cash in on nostalgia is that often it lacks the charisma or charm of the first one and Vacation unfortunately does not buck that trend. The characters lack the appeal of Clark and Ellen, and the Griswold kids even less so. The actors also don’t have the same chemistry as the original cast. It’s not like this brand of comedy cannot be full of heart, plenty of other movies have proven that it can happen, but this film is more focused on trying to capture the magic of its inspiration that it forgets what made it memorable in the first place.

I thought Vacation was OK 😐 It’s simply another attempt to ride the nostalgia wave popular in Hollywood right now and it falls way short of capturing the magic of the original Vacation. Maybe this film might have fared better if it wasn’t attached to a franchise like the Vacation franchise. But then again, if it tried that, I imagine it probably would have been compared to the original Vacation and then still would have been looked at in a less than positive light. Moral of the story is let’s stop trying to remake or reboot beloved and popular franchises simply because it can be done. If you want to watch a great film like Vacation, simply watch Vacation.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
John Francis Daley – Director / Writer
Jonathan Goldstein – Director / Writer
Mark Mothersbaugh – Composer

Ed Helms – Rusty Griswold
Christina Applegate – Debbie Griswold
Skyler Gisondo – James Griswold
Steele Stebbins – Kevin Griswold
Leslie Mann – Audrey Crandall
Chris Hemsworth – Stone Crandall
Chevy Chase – Clark Griswold
Beverly D’Angelo – Ellen Griswold
Catherine Missal – Adena
Charlie Day – Chad
Ron Livingston – Ethan
Norman Reedus – Trucker

Game Night Review

Game Night movie posterSynopsis
Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) host a weekly game night with their friends. When Max’s brother (Kyle Chandler) offers to host game night, the group finds themselves solving a murder mystery like they never expected.

Review
When I first saw the trailer for Game Night and saw it starred Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, and Lamorne Morris (aka New Girl’s Winston (aka my favorite character)), and the ridiculous premise, I was sold. I like comedies and I like movies that take a regular event, like a weekly, friendly gathering to play board games, and turns it on its head. And I have to say, I was not disappointed.

Sometimes in films with larger casts, some characters might be eclipsed or feel unnecessary. However, in this movie, no one character ever really outshined another. Every character felt unique, bringing something different to the film both in terms of comedy and character arc. In comedies, characters can feel the same. Again, not here. Big props to the casting director who brought this group of actors and actresses together. Everyone worked well together as couples and as a large group. It reminds me a little of Ocean’s Eleven where the cast just works so well together and has great on-screen chemistry, elevating the movie further than the script could alone.

Speaking of the script, the script was tighter than it is in most comedies. It was funny when it needed to be, focused on the action when it was supposed to, and let the character moments take front and center when necessary. It balanced all aspects of the film, never feeling rushed nor drawn out. To go with what I said above, every character had their place, each couple had their own arc besides the main story arc, and at running at just above an hour and a half, they all felt complete.

As great as the script was, the cast was even better. I’m a big fan of Jason Bateman and and even bigger fan of Rachel McAdams. The two of them are absolute magic together. Not surprising, Lamorne Morris was one of my favorites in the film. He brings the same sense of humor that makes his character of Winston in New Girl so lovable. Besides them, I didn’t know much of the rest of the cast going into the movie but I thought they all were great. Billy Magnussen as the not-quite-as-smart one in the group might have been my favorite of those I was less familiar with.

I thought Game Night was GREAT 😀 From the very beginning, this film had me laughing and it never stopped. Every character had their place in the story and the entire cast worked great together, in their pairs and in the overall group. And the tight script only elevates the great cast. It may be early in the year but I foresee this being one of my favorite comedies of 2018.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
John Francis Daley – Director
Jonathan Goldstein – Director
Mark Perez – Writer
Cliff Martinez – Composer

Jason Bateman – Max
Rachel McAdams – Annie
Kyle Chandler – Brooks
Sharon Horgan – Sarah
Billy Magnussen – Ryan
Lamorne Morris – Kevin
Kylie Bunbury – Michelle
Jesse Plemons – Gary
Michael C. Hall – The Bulgarian
Danny Huston – Donald Anderton
Chelsea Peretti – Glenda
Camille Chen – Dr. Chin
Zerrick Williams – Val
RF Daley – Tats
John Francis Daley – Carter
Michael Cyril Creighton – Bill
Brooke Jaye Taylor – Linda
Jonathan Goldstein – Dan