(On DVD, February 2017) As the fourth entry in an uneven series, Vegas Vacation is no more and no less than average. The chuckles are there as the Griswold family takes a trip to Las Vegas, but the film struggles to have anything akin to the memorable sequences of the previous films. While better than European Vacation, it doesn’t reach the comedy heights of Christmas Vacation, nor attains the archetypical Americana of the first film. Chevy Chase’s doofus-dad character is very familiar by now, and if Beverly d’Angelo only seems to become more attractive with age, her character doesn’t have much to do except flirt with Wayne Newton. Some sequences are terrible (such as the Hoover Dam segment) while others are mildly amusing (such as the boy being an incredibly lucky gambler). The ending, appropriately enough for a final movie in a series, triumphantly sends off the Griswold family in the sunset with a drive home that could have been a movie in its own right. By far the most average and featureless film in the series, Vegas Vacation is worth a look if it’s in the same DVD case as the other movies of the series—otherwise, well, there are funnier film out there.
(In French, Fourth or fifth viewing, December 2016) Surprisingly enough, I can’t find a review of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation in my files even though I must have watched it a handful of times before. Heck, the film has even become a Christmas tradition in my household. What’s not to love about it? It’s an itemized look at the excesses of Christmas for the middle-class, deftly zigzagging between cynical laughs and exasperated sentiment. It’s a collection of memorable sequences, each of them madcap and taken to the limits. (My hands-down favourite: the “Squirrel!” sequence) It’s a showcase for Chevy Chase, who reprises his role as the Griswold patriarch, but gives him added depth by staying home. For men, it’s an excuse to look at the combined charms of Nicolette Sheridan, Beverly D’Angelo’s green outfit and eighties-chic Julia Louis-Dreyfus. It remains very funny even today, and I suspect that its timeless charm only makes it feel even more relevant nowadays. Worth seeing again; worth seeing every year.
(Video on Demand, January 2016) Are Hollywood studios so desperate that we’re now down to comedy franchise reboots? Oh, you can make a good case for the Chevy-Chase “Vacation” quartet as some sort of classic (especially the Christmas one), but rehashing vacation-themed films through the son’s character in the original series seems more crassly desperate than most other attempts to exploit moviegoers. The result isn’t fit to make anyone think more highly of the process: It’s not that Vacation is terrible, but that it’s scattered everywhere, without much control over its own tone or jokes as it seemingly leaps off in all directions (sometimes literally straddling four states at once). There’s heartwarming family reconciliation, some gross-out material, several quick appearances by known comedians, undercooked subplots and an overall lack of cohesion. Ed Helms is pretty good as the stereotypically harried husband/father and some of the cameos are fine (this does not include Chevy Chase, who looks as if he should have retired a long time ago) and yet Vacation is as ordinary as it comes. It’s funny enough, but it could have been better given slightly more effort.