Two decades later, Rusty Griswold (son of Clark, and one of the children dragged along on previous misadventures) is all grown up and a firm testament to the belief that those who don't learn from their mistakes (or the mistakes of their father) are doomed to repeat them.
In short, and as it turns out, the answer is everything... because everything is exactly what writers and debut directors Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley throw at the wall. The style of humour moves and swerves as fast and wildly as Walley World's infamous Velociraptor ride. Ranging from family banter to observational to slapstick to toilet and cringe-based humour, no comedic stone is left unturned. Unfortunately not all of it sticks, but when they succeed at hitting the mark they hit it with terrific force.
Especially when contrasted with the majority of the attempts at more heartfelt and reflective moments, which either lack adequate build-up to explain growth or sweeps previous events under the rug in a single moment of action or dialogue, just for the sake of tying up loose plot threads. Though the message of the importance of awareness, communication, and family remains sweet and is one to which most people can relate.
Along for the ride, are his dissatisfied and begrudging wife Debbie (Christina Applegate), and their equally begrudging sons James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins). The latter offering distinct, if occasionally grating, personalities and a refreshingly reversed dynamic that heralds back to 'Malcolm in the Middle'. Whilst the former expertly injects proceedings with the highly welcome and extremely hilarious dose of madness, as a woman with both a surprising past and an unpredictable streak. Of the core, Christina Applegate is truly the highlight, gamely throwing herself into every moment and situation with wild and wonderful abandon.
She is eclipsed only by the string of supporting appearances and cameos that pepper the film's run time, achieving a level of quality - in terms of name and performance - that would make 'Entourage' blush with shame. Most notably, Chris Hemsworth playing totally outside of his wheelhouse and sporting a very different kind of hammer; and the always brilliant Charlie Day, as the last person you'd ever want to be on a boat with.
How familiar people are with the misadventures of the Griswold family will no doubt vary, especially outside of America, but Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley are clearly fans who know their stuff. Sticking to the traditional episodic format of road-trip movies such as this - going as far even as to break up each chapter with a running gag involving a very temperamental sat-nav - the film is full to the brim with references and active call-backs to the original series. Not to mention an acute self-awareness and an impassioned sense of fun.
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