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ED HELMS & CHRISTINA APPLEGATE IN VACATION

year: 2015 rating: **1/2
The many faces and ages of Rusty Griswold: After being originally played by young teenager Anthony Michael Hall, and then taken over by a slightly older, similar looking Jason Lively, something bizarre occurred... While Clark and Ellen Griswold aged a bit, their daughter Audrey was still a teenager by the Christmas outing when Rusty became younger than he ever was in the first place. And Johnny Galecki eventually turned into college-aged Ethan Embry, and now Rusty seems to have found a genuine adult fit in Ed Helms, taking his family, consisting of wife and two sons, on a VACATION to, of all places, Wally World...

But this really isn't a sequel for the sake of theme or continuity. Within the first ten minutes, Helms's Rusty is as put-upon a workaday dad/father as you'll get in just about any modern comedy, only far more politically-correct than usual, not being able to scold his sons or sexually relate with his wife, Christina Applegate's Debbie. Like Chevy Chase in the original, Rusty's naive reason for the journey is to bond with the family, no matter what. Only this troubled clan doesn't have the sort of normal suburban chemistry from the onset for it to matter when things go completely wrong: they're like a hex suffering more bad luck...

From a muscle headed brother-in-law to a suicidal river rafting guide to a very dirty hot spring to a totaled car, all problems suffered by the Griswolds seem to come and go without rhyme or reason: contrived shock value over characters developing within a  hellish adventure... which isn't such a bad trip, really. The cast fits together like a comfortable shoe and there are a few laughable moments. But with vehicles like WE'RE THE MILLERS and a bevy of family road flicks inspired by the original National Lampoon franchise, why call this VACATION? If anything, the familiar names and places, and one extremely awkward cameo, hinders more than helps the overall pace.
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