As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
And so, one’s idea of a fun get-away becomes somebody else’s greatest nightmare.
The Griswolds, who hit the screen over three decades ago in the “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and amused audiences with disasters that can befall a family on a cross-country road trip, take to the road once more in the hysterical comedy, “Vacation.”
This time, Rusty Griswold is all grown up, older but not wiser, in the driver’s seat and, along with his wife and kids, pushing the envelope too far.
Ed Helms stars as Rusty Griswold, taking the vacation torch from his father, Clark, determined to get his own family to the now bigger, better Walley World theme park and getting into even more outrageous situations on the way.
“We love ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’. it’s legendary,” Jonathan Goldstein who co-wrote and co-directed the film with John Francis Daley revealed. “We wanted our new take on ‘Vacation’ to work for people who know and love the original, but also for those who may not be familiar with it.”
Daley agrees. “It was important for the new movie to be able to stand on its own while still paying respects to its classic predecessor.”
Christina Applegate stars as Debbie Griswold, the popular sorority girl who married Rusty. “I’m a huge fan of the Griswolds and their saga.” Add to that, she loved the directors’ “rapier wits”.
“They’re sharp and smart and yet they are able to write heart. It can’t all be snark. There has to be an emotional thread and it was there, woven into the crazy comedy and mishaps. That was a big plus for me.”
Significantly, “Vacation” wasn’t a re-make, but more of a continuation.
“It’s an honor to step into the role,” Helms explained. “I love that Rusty (once the lad) is now the dad. I was super psyched to play that because, although so many great actors portrayed him as a teen, the adult Rusty has never existed before. Adults are different than the teenage versions of ourselves. So it was exciting to have a clean slate going in.”
And he can move seamlessly between the emotional work and the comedy and always knows where the sweet spot of the scene is.
“Rusty isn’t striving for greatness, but he’s a very earnest and enthusiastic dad,” Helms went on. “He’s willing to fight to make it right when things go wrong and to make sure the family has fun in the face of ridiculous odds. It doesn’t even matter if they’re actually having fun, as long as they’re just smiling and saying that they are. That’s almost enough for Rusty. I think it’s something he inherited from Clark Griswold-there’s also a very unhealthy, but amusing, amount of denial in Rusty.”
Goldstein observes, “Rusty has this idea that his family is a lot more functional than it actually is. He thinks he saves the day every day that he comes home and there’s a fight going on between his kids. He thinks his wife is as happy as the day they got married.”
In fact, the kids don’t really look up to him. And his wife is not so happy.
But Applegate had a great time playing Debbie, Helm’s on-screen better half. “It was impossible not to get swallowed up in Ed’s portrayal of Rusty; that childlike innocence and joy was infectious, and it was wonderful to watch. Ed really kept us afloat, both our fictional characters and as actors. set the tone for us and we were all game for anything.”
“Once we started shooting, Christina and Ed had that chemistry you hope for. They just clicked,” recalls producer Chris Bender. “We knew we had something special.”
Before Rusty, Debbie went to college, got a Masters, had plans.and was a bit of a wild child. Then she got married and had kids and things changed.
“She probably needed a Rusty, he’s grounded. But even if you’re happy and comfortable, there comes a time when you’re watching your kids grow and they don’t need you as much as they used to, and you want you back. That’s where Debbie is,” Applegate maintained.
“I like the fact that she wasn’t written like the typical, supportive wife. I love that she’s got spunk and she’s got a mouth on her and she has an opinion. You know she’s not just going along for the ride. She’s her own person.”
She also has a secret that pre-dates Rusty. And it’s going to blow Rusty’s mind.
Worst, events juxtapose Rusty, a regional pilot at a no-name airline, against his brother-in-law, Stone Crandall, is a popular on-air forecaster who has done very well and is on the cusp of even more success, with the ranch and cattle and man toys to prove it.
And as the trip spirals out of control, Rusty and his family find themselves on his doorstep.
The filmmakers looked to the deities to find the perfect Stone Crandall – Chris Hemsworth, a dramatic actor who played Thor, the Norse god of thunder – and came off surprisingly funny.
“This was an opportunity to do something different. I loved the script and the character – a cheesy weatherman, a bit of a douche bag who has some old-fashioned views of the world. It was a no-brainer. I knew it would be a blast,” he reasoned.
Even bigger than his ego are his family jewels. Stone Crandall is distractingly well endowed – which only makes things worse for Rusty and leads to one of the film’s most outrageous scenes.
Despite all the disasters, Rusty adopted a real go-get-’em attitude that things will work out if they just push through as a family.
“It’s those little things that make you relate to Rusty. He just wants to have a sing-a-long. Is that too much to ask? He wants his family to be happy. But the world makes that hard sometimes.” Helms smiles, “The sometimes raunchy, usually insane situations the Griswolds wind up in, and how they handle it, will make people laugh, feel empathy….or cringe.”
“There’s no such thing as a functional family,” Goldstein stressed. “But we still want to believe there can be. We want the Griswolds to do it. We want them to get it right. They just can’t.”
“We just hope the audience has fun rooting for them,” Daley acquiesces. “We just hope they end up relieved that at least, their family’s not that crazy.”