Welcome to Reboot Court, where we drag an upcoming film remake in front of the judge — that would be me — and determine whether or not a do-over is a good idea. Court is now in session …
The original film: National Lampoon’s Vacation (d. Harold Ramis, 1983)
The story: Excessively cheerful family man Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) decides to drive his family from Chicago to California in the ol’ family truckster to visit the famous Walley World amusement park. Clark’s dream vacation, however, suffers one disaster after another — can anyone say “dead aunt”? — until the poor guy is finally pushed over the edge.
Existing permutations: One pedestrian direct follow-up (European Vacation); one holiday classic (Christmas Vacation); one useless fourquel (Vegas Vacation); and an ill-advised, Chevy-free TV spinoff movie (Christmas Vacation 2) that no one should ever speak of again. There was also this weird advertisement/short-film hybrid thingie.
Proposed incarnation: The new movie will focus on Clark’s grown son Rusty as he attempts to give his brood an unforgettable family vacation. The filmmakers on the project have already stated their intention to bring back Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as the grandparents Griswold, making this a clear-cut rebootquel.
Argument for: The interminable family vacation is something everyone can relate to, and the looseness of the concept should allow for easy reinvention. After all, there are a million places to go on vacation and there are a million ways for those trips to go sour. Even if the family is headed from Chicago to California again, there are a number of detours the movie can take between those two points to differentiate itself from the original film. Co-writing and co-directing is John Francis Daley, who once upon a time was part of the cast of Freaks and Geeks, one of television’s all-time best shows. As such, he gets a lifetime pass, and we should all wish nothing but success for him. The inevitable Holiday Road cover is going to be awesome if it’s given to somebody like Mumford & Sons. Having Chase and D’Angelo around will give everyone a continuity boner. Rusty Griswold could be a plum part for any number of quality early-forty-something comedy actors looking for a starring role in a can’t-miss property. Ed Helms’s name has been thrown around. I could live with that. If Daley and fellow co-writer/director Jonathan Goldstein want to make Rusty a little less of a buffoon than his old man (which would line up with the original films’ version of the character), I could see someone like Paul Rudd being aces in the part. Jason Bateman could work, too.
Argument against: But if it ends up being Jack Black or Adam Sandler or someone else we’d like to avoid being stuck in a car with for a cross-country drive, then god help us all. (Actually, it seems highly unlikely it would be Black or Sandler — Black because he sort of tanked as a mainstream comedy lead and Sander because he usually sticks to his own stuff — but I needed some examples that would show how much pain miscasting Rusty could bring into the world. Those two should do it.) The inevitable Holiday Road cover is going to be awful if it’s given to somebody like Maroon 5. The original Vacation was written by John Hughes and directed by Harold Ramis. They be comedy gods and a tough act to follow. I’m not sure you can bring a Cousin Eddie-like character into the new film without it coming off like a pale imitation of Randy Quaid’s shtick. (And Quaid himself must be surely out of the question.) Something completely new is likely required to fill that hole.
The verdict: Eh, why not? On one hand, the Vacation films are very much defined by being Chevy Chase vehicles, but on the other, the concept is malleable enough that a new version wouldn’t be beholden to the original movies. And the fact that the very idea of the American family weighs so heavily on the series makes it fitting that we would now see how the Griswolds are faring all these years later with Clark in his twilight years and Rusty at the head of the clan. Of course, if I were making this movie, I’d feel compelled to go all meta. Let’s have Rusty accidentally consume some hard drugs which leads to his appearance changing in every mirror he looks into. Anthony Michael Hall, Jason Lively, Johnny Galecki and Ethan Embry should all be up for cameos, right?