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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Vacation (Blu-ray)
Vacation (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // R // November 3, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $44.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted November 3, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
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The Movie:

The original National Lampoon's Vacation is rightly considered a comedy classic (as is Christmas Vacataion, if not European Vacation and Vegas Vacation) so it makes sense that sooner or later, franchise owner Warner Brothers would return to that well. And in 2015, they did just that with Vacation, a film that sees Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms), son of Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), all grown up with a family of his own. The ‘family vacation gene' that ran so strong in Clark has apparently been passed down to Rusty because he has decided, in the Griswold tradition, to bring his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and two sons, James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins), to the very same Wallyworld them park that Clark was so obsessed when all of this started way back in 1983.

The sins of the father… and from there the movie more or less follows the same path as its original predecessor. The four Giswold's pile into an Albanian manufactured minivan called ‘Tartan Prancer' and hit the road. As they head from Chicago to California making the sacred pilgrimage to the Mecca that is Wallyworld, predictably nutty things occur. The family vehicle gets vandalized, after that they get robbed, they look to the kindness of strangers for help (not a good move) and Rusty just can't help himself when it comes to keeping his eyes off of a pretty gal (Hannah Davis) in a Ferrari. Meanwhile, James falls for a pretty teenage girl named Adena (Catherine Missal) who seems to be following a similar path to that tread by the Griswold's. Oh, and along the way they stop off to visit Rusty's sister Audrey (Leslie Mann) and her husband, a newscaster named Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth), who has no qualms whatsoever about flaunting his affluence in Rusty's face.

The problem with the movie is that it shoehorns in the set pieces that the writers figure the audience both wants and expects out of a Vacation movie and it does so at the expense of the family dynamic that existed to tie the set pieces in the original together so nicely. You never get the impression that this stuff is happening randomly, through circumstance, instead it feels forced. You don't get the impression that the Griswold's are just going to bumble their way through the events in the movie, you get the impression they're being pushed through the events in the movie. Clark and his crew made plenty of boneheaded moves and bickered back and forth a whole lot but despite the occasional dalliances into bitchy territory you always knew that they cared about one another and you always knew that despite Clark's pigheaded determination he wanted the best for the other three. Here that's lacking.

It's not the fault of the performances. Ed Helms is the perfect casting choice to play a grown up Rusty Griswold and while Christina Applegate may, physically speaking, seem to be beyond his grasp when you see the two of them together they have a chemistry that works. She's sweet and kind and he's dopey but good natured, they do serve as a good extension of the characters that Chase and D'Angelo immortalized. The kids…. They're fine. Not amazing, but fine. Skyler Gisondo is obnoxious as James but let's face it, teenage boys can and always will be obnoxious, while Steele Stebbins (which is a pretty metal name when you think about it) does fine as well. The performances here work. That makes it all the more of a disappointment that the script plays like a cliché ridden rehash of a better, more interesting and more original movie.

Now, it's not a total wash. As mentioned the cast is decent and we get amusing cameos from the original Clark and Ellen with Chase and D'Angelo reprising their roles. That right there is reason enough for most fans to smile. Some gags do work. There is some amusing slapstick, a few recurring bits that are amusing (Kevin misusing the word ‘rimjob' over and over again might be crass but it is funny) and the whole concept of the Tartan Prancer works well. There are funny bits scattered through the movie and it's quite well paced. But when it's all over, is it something you're going to go back to? Probably not.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Vacation gets an AVC encoded 2.40.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer that is, as you'd expect for a brand new title such as this, a very solid one. The image shows great detail and depth and offers up a very nice image without any noise reduction or edge enhancement problems worth complaining about. There's bit of crush in the darker scenes but other than that, nothing to complain about here, the picture is excellent and color reproduction is top notch. Compression artifacts are never a problem and black levels are strong and deep.

Audio:

Also impressive is the English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. There's lots of surround activity in the more active scenes but also some nice, subtle background details to take in during the quieter moments. Dialogue is nice and clear, the score sounds good. Standard Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks are provided in French, Spanish, Portuguese and English with removable subtitles offered in English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

Extras:

The main extra on the disc is The Griswold Odyssey, a sixteen minute long featurette that serves as a pretty standard behind the scenes/making of featurette. We get some insight from the cast and crew, a look at the different stops that the Griswold's make on their trek and some info on what went into getting the minivan supped up and ready for action. Return To Wallyworld is a ten minute piece in which the writers and various cast members talk about the trials and tribulations of rebooting a franchise as enduringly popular as this one while the two minute Georgia is a quick bit that talks about how the state of Georgia was used to portray every state seen in the movie.

Aside from that we get a ninety second gag reel, twelve minutes of fairly mundane deleted scenes, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release we also get a DVD version of the movie with identical supplements and a download code for a Digital HD version of the movie too. This all fits inside a standard sized Blu-ray case that in turn fits inside a slipcover.

Final Thoughts:

Vacation is thoroughly mediocre. It has its moments, there are some good gags here and the cast aren't bad at all, but the story is predictable and adds nothing fresh or all that new to the franchise. You've seen a lot of this before. Warner's Blu-ray looks and sounds great but it is a bit short in the extra features department. It's a perfectly acceptable time killer but hardly a comedy classic. Rent it.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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