A couple of months ago, I was watching the new trailer for the Vacation movie that hit theaters last weekend. This is a sequel of sorts to the original series of Vacation movies in that Rusty, the son of Clark and Ellen Griswold, has grown up and decided to take his own family on a vacation to Walley World. After I finished watching the trailer, I called the Beast to express my concerns with what I had just seen.
The trailer seemed to show a movie that forgot what made the original Vacation (and, to a slightly lesser degree, Christmas Vacation) a classic movie. Now I was not bothered by the potential increase in vulgarity and sexual situations generally (the original Vacation was a National Lampoon production, rated R and plenty risqué for 1983), but because those issues were not being used in a broader context, which is the family dynamic, with a good, flawed father leading the way.
Clark Griswold in the original Vacation was a man that wanted nothing more than to give his family a vacation of a lifetime. There is no doubt how much he loves his family and how much they love him. That is the fulcrum around which all of the crazy situations, foul-mouth meltdowns and colossal screw-ups happen, which makes them all work in a comedic manner. The frustration Clark feels when the family isn’t as excited as he is to continue the vacation, and his confusion with his place in the family and growing older that leads to the Christy Brinkley scene in the pool–those are feelings we can all understand and empathize with, it’s just Clark takes them to a whole different level in how he reacts to them–hence the humor.
For anyone that grew up watching movies in the ’80s, this understanding of emotions and its importance in the pathos of Clark during the course of the cross-country trip can be understood when you hear the name of the main writer of the story and the screenplay–John Hughes. John Hughes knew what he was doing when he wrote about flawed people, the emotions surrounding them, and our love towards them–see The Breakfast Club, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and Uncle Buck. All of these movies are funny, but touching in how they deal with misfits, bad choices, life in general and its quirks in particular.
So, unfortunately it appears my initial concerns about the new Vacation were right, the reviews are terrible, it is plummeting down the box office totals, and will have no lasting impact unlike the original, that’s too bad. But I think the overriding difference can be summed up as follows:
At the end of the original Vacation, when Clark says to Roy Walley (a Roy/Walt Disney lookalike!), “Wouldn’t you do the same thing for your children.” and Roy says: “No.” But, then he goes ahead and drops all the charges and they ride the coaster together. One reason that seems to work is that we actually like Clark and his family and think Roy should too. We would be happy to hang out at Walley World with those Griswolds. I don’t believe that is true for Rusty and his family.
So, enjoy the Holiday Road and Six Flags Magic Mountain (standing in for Walley World), with the original Griswolds!