This long and tired story begins in 1983, the year Clark Griswold decided to take his family on a road-trip vacation to Walley World.
It didn't go well.
Thirty-two summers later, his son, Rusty, decides it's time for another Griswold family to trek to that fabled amusement park in California.
It won't go well for them, either.
Rusty, a pilot for EconoAir, had been planning on yet another summer sojourn at the family cabin in Sheboygan, Mich. Until, that is, he overhears his wife, Debbie, telling a friend about how much she hates it there, and how their two sons, James and Kevin, call the place Sheboring.
Walley World to the rescue! And a fierce amount of family fun and bonding on a roundabout road trip from Chicago to California!
The family does bond like never before. And the trip is fierce. But fun? Com'on, these are the Griswolds we're talking about here.
Rusty loves his wife and two sons. But he's deeply insecure about both his role as a husband and a father, constantly comparing himself unfavorably to others who seem to handle those duties better than he does. Rusty earnestly tries to get things right, but mostly gets them wrong, which increasingly frustrates his family.
But there's hope here. Near the end of the movie, Rusty finds that his wife has secretly been reading a book called Is Your Marriage Dying? He confronts Debbie just as she realizes how hard he's striving to love her and take care of their family. "Marriage only dies when you stop trying," she says. "And you have never stopped trying." She then throws the book away.
Indeed, Rusty says he's turned down more lucrative job offers to fly for other airlines because it would have meant more time away from his family. Debbie says of his choice, "How many men would sacrifice their careers for their family like you have?" Rusty responds, "I haven't sacrificed anything. I have everything I've ever wanted."
The Griswolds visit Debbie's old sorority house in Memphis, where a party is underway: We see multiple pairs of women kiss and grind, many wearing revealing outfits. We learn that Debbie's nickname in college was "Debbie Do Anything," which included naked antics and sex with more than 30 men.
Intimidated by Debbie's former sexual experiences, Rusty tries to spice things up by suggesting sex in the shower (which gets interrupted by how nasty the shower is) and, later, sex on the Four Corners' monument. The latter idea is, apparently, a pretty popular one: We see a number of nearly naked couples trying to do the same thing. Several women's breasts are visible, and one couple is glimpsed while in the act. (Police break things up.)
The Griswolds visit Rusty's sister, Audrey Crandall, and her husband, Stone, on their ranch in Texas. Stone and Audrey make a show of their physical affection, and they discuss sex in front of the whole Griswold family. Stone flirts with Debbie. He says goodnight in only his underwear, showcasing his exaggerated anatomy. A picture of him shows his penis hanging out of his shorts. It's no surprise, then, that we hear his marriage to Audrey isn't going well, and that he cheats on her.
Vandals draw a giant phallus on the Griswolds' van; their attempt to remove the image by scrubbing is played for masturbation humor. Rusty inadvertently grab's a woman's chest when turbulence knocks him over on a plane flight; he's then knocked down a second time, face-planting in a child's lap. He finds a huge ball of pubic hair in a cheap motel. He tries to tell James about sex, but James says there's no need ("I know what goes where").
Kevin, who's an alpha dog bully even though he's the youngest, treats his older brother horribly. He writes "I have a vagina" on James' guitar (which Dad later changes to "I have a penis"), says he wishes James had AIDS and makes crude comments about James' testicles. James, meanwhile, has a crush on another teen named Adena. There's talk of gender fluidity and boys who have female anatomy.
A married pilot flirts with two flight attendants and tells a lewd story about things he's done with other airline employees. Dialogue smirks at such things as rapists, pedophile truckers, anonymous stimulation and other sex acts.
We see a picture of Debbie's bare legs and backside while she's sitting on a toilet. Montages of images boast another partially bare backside, a shorts-covered erection, a horse penis and a boy looking at pigs mating.
The Griswolds are pursued by a seemingly psychotic semi driver for most of the film. One encounter ends with the Griswolds' van crashing and rolling. A woman in a Ferrari flirts with Rusty while on the road, leading to her head-on collision with an oncoming vehicle. (We see smoke as Rusty looks back.) Rusty plows into a bull at high speed on a four-wheeler. (We then see the man covered with bovine blood and guts, and another bull begins eating the entrails of its dead peer.)
Debbie falls (hard) off an obstacle course at her sorority. Rusty hurts his foot by kicking tumbleweeds. Debbie slams the van door on his arm several times. The van eventually explodes.
Kevin constantly hits and picks on James, even going so far as putting a plastic bag over the other boy's head to suffocate him. He says he'd like to shoot his older brother. James eventually (with Adena's encouragement) knocks Kevin down (twice) to show him he's not going to take it anymore.
The Griswolds have a massive melee with another family that cuts in front of them in a roller coaster line at Walley World. Much punching, hitting and scratching follows, shown mostly in slow motion. A girl gets kicked in the crotch. Kevin again puts a plastic bag over someone's head. Afterward, he brags, "Man, our family f---ed that other family up."
Four police officers at the Four Corners (one from each state) get in a fight that involves one of them shoving a gun in another's mouth (played for humor). A river raft guide who's just been dumped by his fiancée tries to commit suicide by holding his head underwater, then leading the raft with him and the Griswolds over a waterfall. They get out in time, but he plunges down and bounces screaming off rocks (again played for laughs).
Crude or Profane Language
More than 50 f-words. Nearly half of those obscenities are paired with "mother," many of which are in a song played over the opening and ending credits. Also: 20 or so s-words and a barrage of other vulgarities such as "b--ch," "a--," "a--hole," "d--n," "p---" and "d--k." There's a lot of dialogue involving penises and vaginas. God's name is misused upwards of 15 times, sometimes paired with "d--n." Jesus' name is abused once or twice.
I should note that much of the harshest language comes from Kevin, who's portrayed as an out-of-control South Park-like kid. Naturally, his parents never discipline him for his potty mouth or bad behavior.
Drug and Alcohol Content
College kids drink and get drunk. They use a beer bong. They play drinking games, and when Debbie participates, she ends up vomiting all over everything. Elsewhere, adults drink wine and beer at a couple of meals. Stone has a well-stocked bar and drinks hard liquor. We hear that the van Rusty's rented, an Albanian Tartan Prancer, boasts six ashtrays.
Other Negative Elements
A ne'er-do-well robs the Griswolds and tricks them into swimming in raw sewage. They think they're in a hot spring, and we see them even gargle the gross stuff. Kevin throws a used drug syringe at James.
There's a swastika on the van's key fob. We see one kid with mucus dripping out of his nose, another on a portable potty. Someone throws up on a roller coaster.
"So you just want to redo your vacation from 30 years ago," Debbie Griswold incredulously asks her husband after he outlines his plan for a family trip to Walley World. "Don't you think that'll be kind of a letdown?"
Indeed. If there's a singular moment of clarity in this raunchy sequel to 1983's similarly raunchy road tripper National Lampoon's Vacation, that's it.
Now, if you're of a certain age, memories of Chevy Chase's patented doofus dad shtick (which Ed Helms futilely strives with all his might to recapitulate here) might stir a kind of wistful nostalgia (never mind that the original Vacation was also heavily laced with R-rated content, a recollection that's too easily buried in the sands of time). No doubt the suits at Warner Bros. are counting on those fond reminiscences to plant nostalgic backsides in theaters for this retread.
So for Boomers and GenXers (and anyone else) flirting with that temptation, here's a suggestion: Resist it. The word letdown isn't even strong enough to encapsulate the tired, predictable nastiness that ensues in the latest Griswold family misadventure.
Oh, to be sure, there are a handful of scattered sentiments here that are disarmingly sweet, such as when Debbie eventually realizes how hard her struggling husband has been trying to serve their family. But such isolated moments float in an otherwise stagnant sewer of obscenity (often voiced by the film's youngest character), excrement (literally), comedic carnage (cartoonish, but explicit) and anatomically oriented sleaze (both visual and verbal).
So forget about trying to be like Clark Griswold, who triumphantly shouted "First ones here!" upon his family's arrival at Walley World 32 years ago. A wiser plan this time around would be to cancel the vacation altogether and maybe weed the garden or clean out the garage—both far more fun adventures than this cinematic calamity.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Ed Helms as Rusty Griswold; Christina Applegate as Debbie Griswold; Skyler Gisondo as James Griswold; Steele Stebbins as Kevin Griswold; Chris Hemsworth as Stone Crandall; Leslie Mann as Audrey Crandall; Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold; Beverly D'Angelo as Ellen Griswold; Charlie Day as Chad; Catherine Missal as Adena; Ron Livingston as Ethan; Norman Reedus as The Trucker
John Francis Daley ( ), Jonathan M. Goldstein ( )
July 29, 2015
November 9, 2015