Rusty: Doesn't matter, the new vacation will stand on its own, okay?
It serves as both a reboot and sequel to the National Lampoon's Vacation series, following the escapades of Rusty Griswold instead of his father Clark, though maintaining the same format and featuring supporting appearances by Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, and Leslie Mann as Clark, Ellen, and Audrey Griswold respectively.
Now all grown up and with a family of his own, Rusty (Helms) plans a cross-country car trip to Walley World in the hopes of reconnecting with his wife, Debbie (Applegate), and bonding with his two sons, James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins). But typically of every Griswold family outing, disaster — and hilarity — soon ensue.
This was the first entry to be released since the death of creator John Hughes in 2009.
Provides examples of the following tropes:
- The Ace: Stone seems to have everything going for him — looks, money, "endowment" and more.
- The Alleged Car: Taking the place of the Wagon Queen Family Truckster is the Prancer minivannote from Tartan, the "Honda of Albania". The Prancer comes equipped with several odd features, including a detachable bumper, additional fuel tanks (Rusty says it's a reserve, but in reality the Prancer is a tremendous gas guzzler and he is paying even more by filling two tanks) and a button that turns the driver's seat completely around. Rusty has to resort to his dad's Family Truckster after the Prancer explodes.
- Amusement Park: Walley World is once again the family destination.
- Annoying Younger Sibling: James' younger brother, Kevin, seems verbally abusive to most people, but his brother especially. In one scene he playfully suffocates James with a plastic bag.
- Beware the Nice Ones: James eventually gets his revenge on Kevin for treating him like shit throughout the film. Downplayed in that it is very mild. Played straight in the credits where he is shown smothering Kevin with a plastic bag the same way he did to James earlier.
- Big Brother Bully: Inverted by having James be the meeker brother and Kevin being the malicious one who does the tormenting.
- Billions of Buttons: Both the Prancer's center console and key fob have way more buttons than necessary, and many of those buttons have ambiguous functions.
- Black Comedy: The movie retains this sort of humor from the original.
- Black Comedy Cannibalism: When we first meet him, Stone is shown feeding steak to his cattle. Later, when Rusty accidentally runs over a steer, another steer is shown eating the first steer's remains.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Kevin, until James grows a pair and puts him in his place.
- Bumbling Dad: In Rusty's case, it looks like the apple didn't fall far from the tree.
- Chekhov's Gun: Debbie's wedding ring. Turns out the truck driver who'd been chasing them down the whole time was just trying to return it.
- Chekhov's Skill: Kevin putting a plastic bag over someone's head.
- Comically Missing the Point: After discovering that "Griswold Springs" is pure raw sewage, Rusty tries to console his wife.Debbie: We're naked and covered in human waste.Rusty: Oh, come on, sweetheart, we don't know that it's human.
- Continuity Nod: A brief scene shows that Vacation '15 acknowledges all previous films in the series as Rusty admires photos of him and his old family's time in Las Vegas, their Christmas family gathering, their European excursion, and of course the original, infamous Walley World trip.
- Various versions of Lindsay Buckingham's 1983 hit single, "Holiday Road" (the theme song to the Vacation series), including the original, are played all throughout the film.
- Diaries Are Girly: Kevin certainly thinks so, as he calls James gay for bringing some along for the trip before he destroys them.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Inverted in the scene where an attractive, fanservicey woman in a red Ferrari (Hannah Jeter) attempts to distract Rusty, which ends with her death (caused by her car colliding violently with an oncoming semitrailer truck). note
- Darker and Edgier: Though Vacation '83 is rated R, the prior sequels are toned down a lot in comparison. This is most evident with the fourth and previous movie, 1997's Vegas Vacation which virtually has no harsh language or offensive content. As a result, the MPAA gave it a family-friendly PG rating (Parental Guidance Suggested). This installment intentionally jumps right up to R with its heavy amount of raunch, swearing, and morbid jokes. In fact, the movie went through a brief period of development hell as the filmmakers couldn't decide on the film's target audience.
- Driven to Suicide: The rafting guide, who appears extremely cheerful and jokey until he receives a call from his fiancee telling him the wedding is off. He then attempts to kill the Griswolds and himself up the rapids.
- The credits show that he did survive... Only to come face to face with a bear.
- Dysfunction Junction: Rusty's family is full of it, with lack of communication as the biggest problem Rusty cares about and the fact one of their sons (Kevin) is a complete psychopath as the lesser.
- Enfant Terrible: Kevin frequently punches, makes fun of, and destroys the belongings of his older, and has a extremely dirty potty mouth.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: One of the buttons on the Prancer's key fob makes it explode.
- Fictional Counterpart: Wally World once again serves as this toward Disney Theme Parks.
- From the Mouths of Babes: Nearly everything Kevin says.
- Gag Penis: Audrey's husband, Stone, sports one of these.
- Gilligan Cut: The desert scene where Russ notices their car is almost out of gas. He states that they'll probably find a place to stop soon enough, only for the movie to cut to them stranded on the side of the road.
- Good Ol' Boy: Stone is a stereotypical conservative cowboy.
- Hollywood Autism: Debbie's former sorority is shown hosting a fundraiser for "Assburgers research."
- Horrible Judge of Character: Rusty and Debbie never seem to realize their youngest son is a bully who unless receives therapy, could become a dangerous sociopath and instead love him like nothing's wrong.
- Inventional Wisdom: Who the heck decided that a knock-off SUV like the Prancer needed a self-destruct button?
- Jerkass: Kevin is pretty much the epitome of this. He's a little kid but he is truly a horrible person.
- Also Ethan (Ron Livingston), Rusty's rude airline pilot rival.
- Jurisdiction Friction: Rusty and Debbie escape from being arrested for trying to have sex at Four Corners because the park rangers are too busy arguing among themselves over which one has the authority to arrest them.
- Kafka Komedy: Everything that could go wrong for Rusty goes horribly wrong, and when they arrive to Wally World, the roller coaster they get on breaks down and leaves them dangling all day upside down. At least they beat the crap out of Ethan and his family to get on that thing.
- Kill the Cutie: A re-creation of an iconic scene from the original Vacation film. In the original, a beautiful, mysterious blonde babe (Christine Brinkley) driving a red Ferrari catches Clark's eye on the road. In this, Rusty is tempted as an attractive woman (Hannah Davis) drives by in a red Ferrari and waves seductively. Unlike the original, where Brinkley's character meets up later with the Griswolds at a roadside hotel and goes skinny-dipping, this one doesn't end so well (she gets plowed head on by a semi-truck in the opposite lane).
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Just the quote above screams self-awareness.Rusty: For one thing, the original vacation had a boy and a girl. This one has two boys. And I'm sure that there will be lots of other differences.
- Lampshade Hanging: When Rusty announces the road trip to Walley World to the family:Debbie: So you just want to redo your vacation from thirty years ago? Don't you think that's gonna be kind of a letdown?
- Mistaken for Pedophile: Rusty's attempt to act as James' "wingman" causes him to come off quite creepy to the girl James is trying to impress.
- Kevin jokingly calls a trucker a pedophile on a walkie-talkie. The trucker tailgates the family for the rest of the trip. Eventually averted in that it turns out that while he wasn't angry about the pedophile remark, it is also strongly implied that he actually is a pedophile as he reveals that he has a teddy bear on his truck to attract children.
- Mommy Mobile: The Tartan Prancer fills in the role of the original film's Family Truckster, updating the hideous station wagon to a hideous minivan.
- Mr. Fanservice: Stone (Chris Hemsworth) was in some situations meant obviously to highlight his features.
- Nice Guy: Rusty and his son James are both well meaning, thoughtful guys. Naturally, the nature of film never stops punishing them for it.
- Noodle Incident: While piloting a plane for EconoAir, Rusty thanks his passengers and says that his airline is "working hard to win back [their] trust". It's never explained what incident(s) this refers to, but it reinforces the idea that EconoAir is a bottom-of-the-barrel airline.
- Parental Neglect: Rusty and Debbie are seemingly oblivious to the fact that Kevin is a monster, and Rusty's advice to James only makes things worse.
- Rage Breaking Point: Rusty, despite being positive all the way through the Road Trip from Hell which includes finding out just how much his sons are at odds with each other, his (supposed by both him and his wife) marital problems and other mishaps, once they become stranded on the interstate in the middle of desert has him pull a rant with F-Bombs galore and attempting to kick tumbleweeds that have rather solid things hidden in them just to add injury to insult.
- Reboot Snark: When Rusty Grizwold tells his family that he's going to take them to Wally World by car, he attempts to recreate the vacation his father, Clark Grizwold, took him on during the first movie of the franchise. But Rusty's wife Debbie has a conversation with him about the vacation (and the movie by extension) being unnecessary and redundant.Debbie: So you're redoing your vacation? Don't you think it's kind of a stretch?
Rusty: Who cares? The new one will stand on its own.
- Road Trip Plot: Obviously.
- Running Gag: Several as nods to the series.
- Stepford Smiler: Stone and Audrey apparently have the perfect life, especially compared to the awkward tension and stagnation that's taken root in Rusty and Debbie's marriage. Later, Clark reveals that the two cheat on each other constantly and are apparently incredibly unhappy together.
- Even without the reveal of them cheating on each other, we do see that Audrey isn't totally happy when she keeps mentioning wanting to get a job just for Stone to casually shoot the idea down.
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Played for laughs. Debbie finds out the hard way that the years of living as a responsible married mom have taken a severe toll to her once legendary party-going skills and drinking stamina.
- Too Dumb to Live: Rusty falls into this so many times, one wonders if he was more mature as a child. Debbie also falls into the same situation her husband has. From ignorance that their youngest son is a sociopathic bully, incompetent road skills, swimming in sewage water, and they just land the family in more and more trouble.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Debbie pukes up quite a bit after guzzling down a pitcher of beer.
- Also happens in the opening credit montage of terrible holiday photos, when a roller coaster's auto-snap captures some dude in mid-upchuck.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Stone gets one while he lingers in Rusty and Debbie's room showing them how the TV remote works with his shirt off. Just to get the full effect, he stands in a pose showboating his abs for several seconds without saying anything.
- Yeah, his "abs".
- What Does This Button Do?: The Prancer has Billions of Buttons, many of which have ambiguous functions. Debbie calls out Rusty on using the key fob while attempting to restart the Prancer in the middle of the desert after it breaks down.Rusty: Maybe it's one of the buttons on the fob.
Debbie: Seriously?! You're gonna keep pressing buttons?!
Rusty: Well, we never tried the top hat.
Debbie: Oh, geez.
Rusty: (presses the top hat button, and all the windows shatter) Well, now we know what the top hat does.
- Would Hit a Girl: James shows no scruples about getting into a fistfight with a girl during the brawl near the end of the movie.
- Although to be fair, his idea of a 'fight' is lightly scratching her arm and looking horrified afterwards.