'Vacation': What the sequel says about comedy in Hollywood

The new film stars Ed Helms as Clark Griswold's now-adult son Rusty. With original stars Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo playing supporting rather than headlining roles, the movie seems to embrace the Hollywood reboot trend and other comedies have followed suit.

Hopper Stone/Warner Bros. Entertainment/AP
'Vacation' stars Ed Helms (l.) and Chevy Chase (r.).

From the sound of the reviews, the new comedy in theaters was not a fun “Vacation.” 

“Vacation,” which was released on July 29, is a comedy about Rusty Griswold, the son seen in the 1983 comedy classic “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Now grown with a family of his own, Rusty (Ed Helms) decides that he’ll embark on a trip with his own wife and children. 

It remains to be seen how the film will do at the weekend box office, but so far, critics aren’t fond of the film, with one writing that the movie “substitute[s] coarseness for genuine cleverness” and another calling it “miserably unfunny.”

But one question about the film is what exactly to call it. A sequel-reboot? The film takes place after “Lampoon” and original parents Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo make appearances, but it centers on Helms, his wife (portrayed by Christina Applegate), and their sons rather than Chase and D’Angelo heading up the proceedings.

Most comedies in recent years proceed on a straight sequel path if there’s a follow-up. For example, the comedy “Ted 2,” which was released this summer, continued to focus on protagonist John (Mark Wahlberg) and his talking teddy bear best friend (voiced by Seth MacFarlane). The film didn’t veer off to center on Ted’s sister or John’s brother’s adventures with a talking stuffed rabbit (Hollywood executives, put down your notepads, no one would like that). 

For the most part, recent comedies have either been straight remakes, with the characters keeping names and personalities (for example, the "Pink Panther" remake with Steve Martin), or sequels. It’s been sci-fi and fantasy franchises that have embraced the reboot trend, as seen with this summer’s “Terminator Genisys,” which takes place in the world of the classic 1980s series but imagines a different storyline. Comic book movies have also gotten in on the trend, as the newest Spider-Man was recently cast and an upcoming movie will reportedly bring Peter Parker back to high school with, presumably, a slightly different storyline than in previous incarnations.

However, some other comedies have followed this reboot pattern rather than simply greenlighting a sequel. The movie “21 Jump Street,” which was based on the 1980s TV series, turned the story into a comedy and centered on two new police officers, portrayed by Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. As in “Vacation,” original stars Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise briefly turn up but the movie is by no means about them. 

And next summer will see the arrival of a new “Ghostbusters” film. Original “Ghostbusters” star Dan Aykroyd will make an appearance, according to the actor himself, but the story will center on four new characters, portrayed by Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon. 

Can anything take down the reboot? Right now, it looks like the answer is no as the trend spreads to comedies.

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