Family Road Trip (Vacation, 2015)

vacation_posterThe National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise is an uneven one.  The original is a quotable classic, as is Christmas Vacation.  European Vacation has it’s moments and Vegas Vacation?  Well, it is Vegas Vacation.

National Lampoon has been dropped from the title for this updated tale of a Griswold Family Vacation.  This time around it focuses on Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) and his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate).  Pilot Rusty is inspired to take his wife and two sons on the very same road trip to Wally World as his father took him on.  In one of the more clever sequences of the film Rusty and Debbie argue whether a new Vacation is a good idea.  The whole discussion is a veiled defense of this fourth sequel.  Who remembers the Vacation from thirty years ago?  Why take the same trip? How is it any different?

Alas, most of the film is not quite as clever.  Don’t get me wrong, I did laugh.  But the film just never quite reaches the heights of either the original or Christmas Vacation.  It tries, mostly through rude and gross-out humor, but really, the truth is? Chase just brought a level of heart to the character of Clark Griswold that Helms never seems to have here.

Clark’s failures were a byproduct of major devotion to what he believed family should be.  His awkwardness was his belief in how he should be as a father and husband.  And while Helms’ Rusty pays words to this…it just feels less…real.

The film has a good cast, but the film itself never gels as well as the best of the Vacation films.  The writing never gives the cast any real heart to work with.

The Humor of Suffering (Tig, 2015)

TIG_KeyartTig Notaro tends to be what I think of as a comedian’s comedian.  One of those people that seems to fly under the radar with the public, but comedian’s love.  They often are hard working comics who get opportunities on late night talk shows because the host thinks you should hear them.  Notaro’s career was on the rise until 2012 when it skyrocketed.  Because, uh, she got breast cancer.

Tig had a series of heartbreaking events occur in her life, and then she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  A couple days later, she took to the stage, unsure what she was going to do…and she launched into an awkward, funny, and unique routine.  The other comics there started tweeting about what they were seeing.

3tigThe documentary Tig chronicles the lead up to this event and the fallout from it.   Following her trying to reassess her career, relationships and hopes for her future, the documentary is funny, inspiring, soul crushing.

Notero notes when she was told she should use this for her act, she had wondered how she could mine humor from such tragedy.  And yet, listening to her album Live (pronounced “liv”) she was able to riff hysterically about death, life, disappointment, cancer and uncertainty.

Tig is a terrific, thoughtful and fun documentary.  Mixing in her standup and interviews with her friends and family, you get a pretty full picture of Notaro.  Along with her album Live, I recommend a viewing of Tig.

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