Vegas Vacation Is A Run Of The Mill Entry In Chevy Chase’s Vacation Series
Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Chevy Chase’s series of Vacation films were what’s in when it came to family comedies. They weren’t always necessarily good movies when it came to their cinematic merits, but they were funny, and helped establish Chase as a bankable comedic star in movies in that period. The Vacation films would eventually fall off in quality in the turn of the century, but before the 2000s, Vegas Vacation was the last movie he made in the ’90s. It may very well be the worst-received film in the franchise, which may explain why there wasn’t a new Vacation movie for years after.
Vegas Vacation follows the story of familiar Clark Griswold, the iconic family man playd by Chevy Chase. Due to a breakthrough invention at work that earns him a huge payday, Clark announces to the Griswold family that they’re going to Las Vegas for a vacation, and to renew his wedding vows with his wife.
This news is met with half-heartedness, as Vegas isn’t really a family-friendly tourist destination, but the movie is called Vegas Vacation after all.
The Griswolds end up causing some mayhem in Las Vegas. There are hijinks at the Hoover Dam, for crying out loud. The big problem of the film is that somewhere in the middle of it, Clark ends up throwing away the family’s entire savings account in a gambling spree where he inadvertently becomes addicted to gambling. The rest of the family gets mad and abandons him. His kids go out on their own around the city, and his wife deserts him. Clark’s cousin Eddie (played by Randy Quaid) tries to help him out by using some money he’s saved to win the money back. However, the inexperienced gambler Clark ends up gambling away Eddie’s money as well. These troubles force Clark to get his act together and try to win his family back.
Clark does so and the Griswolds play one last game of Keno with the remaining two dollars of their money. They befriend an elderly but lonely man, allowing him to be part of the family for a night. The Griswolds lose the game but the man ends up winning, which causes him to suddenly pass away, but not before telling Clark to take his winning ticket. With the money from the winning ticket, Clark manages to put his family back together for real, renew his vows with his wife, pay Eddie back, and return home from their vacation triumphant, riding cars Clark’s son won luckily in the slot machines. Their Las Vegas vacation is saved.
Vegas Vacation is absurd from the get-go, but it’s naturally absurd in the way Chevy Chase’s Vacation films usually are. You can get an idea of the laughs in store from the trailer alone:
But if the film didn’t get a lot of good reviews, then it’s probably because Vegas Vacation wasn’t built to be a serious vehicle for the cast led by Chase. It’s there as a comedy movie, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that it would be a movie that’s good. The film is highly uneven, playing out its tired laughs that work best on an audience who wants to see the same cliches, the same outlandish situations, and the usual ridiculous deus ex machina solutions that can only happen in a happy-go-lucky movie such as this. Well, it is Las Vegas, and luck is a big factor in that city. The cast Vegas Vacation is also uninspired, just content with moving through the usual designs in a movie like this. It’s no wonder that we really don’t remember them in this day and age; only Chevy Chase, and to an extent, Randy Quaid, are the most memorable members of these movies.
Sometimes, though, that’s all an audience needs; sometimes it doesn’t really matter for a film to get bad reviews so long as the people it was intended to be made for enjoy it. At least one person “getting it” is the ultimate reason for movies to get made, and this film will definitely find an audience, no problems there.
Therein lies another question, though. If it took a while for another Vacation movie to be made, does that mean that the audience at the time didn’t really enjoy Vegas Vacation? It’s probably the case, but to be fair, in my review I wouldn’t call it something that’s outright terrible. This film is a classic case of “it is what it is;” it’s truly hit or miss, and you’ll have to either take it or leave it. (It’s got a 51% review rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which makes sense considering what I just said.)
Vegas Vacation is, like I keep repeating in this review, a film that’s all right with being in the comedic box it’s in. Nothing groundbreaking, completely safe in its tame ’90s tropes, nothing too absurd in its absurdity. If you like your comedy just like that, as formulaic as it can be, if you like the Vacation movies, and/or if you are a fan of Chevy Chase and his old-school Saturday Night Live-style of comedy, then by all means, watch this movie. Otherwise it’s perfectly fine being relegated to bargain-bin comedy marathons on channels out of programming to broadcast.
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