Vegas Vacation (1997) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

In the early nineties, Las Vegas rebranded itself as a family-friendly tourist attraction. The organized crime element and seedy nature of the strip were overhauled to appeal to both parents and their children. So, sending the Griswald family to Las Vegas, Nevada seems like an inspired choice. In the pantheon of Vacation films, I rank this outing a notch lower than Christmas Vacation. It’s barely better than the off-the-mark European Vacation, but none have ever reached the comedic madcap, raunchy fun of the original Vacation. With a PG rating Vegas Vacation is the tamest of the series and only manages to deliver a few chuckles.

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) has decided to renew his wedding vows to his loving wife Helen (Beverly D’Angelo) in Las Vegas. Flush with money after a big bonus from his boss, Clark books a trip for his brood, which includes son Rusty (Ethan Embry) and daughter Audrey. The usual pit stops abound, a visit with Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid), glitzy shows on the strip, and of course gambling. The running joke is that Clark loses every dollar he plays while Rusty, equipped with a fake I.D., has a hot hand and lady luck on his side. Meanwhile, Helen has caught the attention of Vegas mainstay Wayne Newton and Audrey is spreading her wings with the help of her promiscuous cousin Vicki.

Vegas Vacation is the forgotten film in the franchise and contains one scene that ranks as the low point of the series. Some may argue that European Vacation is worse than Vegas Vacation. Why waste the brainpower and energy debating such things? Vegas Vacation is a toned-down homogenized movie made for family audiences. It is miles away from the crude, funny, and satirical classic that started the series. The mild rating and underwhelming production values make Vegas Vacation feel like a pilot for a TV show rather than a big-screen comedy.

Director: Stephen Kessler
Stars: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid

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