Jennifer Prediger (Apartment Troubles) Talks John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein’s Vacation

A trip back home to see family also becomes a journey to see the new version of an old favorite movie (and then also the original).

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half the fun.” – Clark Griswold

Remember Summer, real childhood Summer, when we got three whole months off just in time for the temperature to rise and time to slow down? Those golden days of lemonade stands, cicadas chirping and a jar full of dead lightning bugs… Now Summer is like two awkward barbecues and a dip in the pool, then back to the salt mines, kids.

This year, for my Summer vacation, I went to see Vacation with my dad (pictured below), the architect of all of my torturous childhood road trips. He insisted we get there an hour early “to get the tickets.” As a longtime New Yorker, I totally understood the need to beat the crowds. Turns out, getting to a movie that early in Harrisburg, PA is completely unnecessary. There were three other people in the multiplex. (How do they afford all that air conditioning? And when did I become Andy Rooney?)

Mr_Prediger

With time to spare, we decided to enjoy some movie fare. I was starving, so naturally my dad suggested I eat a box of Sno-Caps. The kid at the counter could tell I wasn’t into the idea and said, “Our hot dogs are really good. So are the nachos, pizza and mozzarella sticks.”

I went for the latter, to which he replied, “Your mozzarella sticks come with French fries. Is that OK?” Is that OK? It’s about time the mozzarella stick was given its proper place in American cuisine – mozzarella sticks are the new hamburger.

But, I digress. Why was I in Harrisburg? To spend six days in bitter, sweet family hell. Which reminds me of another six days of hell I spent with my dad about 12 years ago – a cross-country road trip when I moved from California back east in an old white Miata, which was little more than a street-legal go-kart.

“I was crazy to think I could make us closer by putting us in a car for a week.” – Grown-up Rusty Griswold

The first feature I wanted to make (still want to make) was of this hallowed trip. My dad tried to talk me out of making a movie about it because he said everything had already been done in 1983 in National Lampoon’s Vacation. That’s not the reason my movie hasn’t been made, but my dad did have a point.

For starters, it was written by John Hughes and directed by Harold Ramis. It also stars Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo and Christie Brinkley at the height of their powers, oozing with youth and chemistry.

What could be better than Clark Griswold diving into a motel pool with a naked Christie Brinkley? (It was supposed to be rhetorical, but I suppose the answer is you diving into a pool with a naked Christie Brinkley.)

But we can’t live in the past. After an hour’s wait, plus a whopping 24 minutes of commercials and trailers (along with a basket of fries and mozzarella sticks), the new Vacation began.

My dad and I started laughing at the opening credits and didn’t stop until the end. Granted, some of those laughs felt cheap, but if points were given for laughter, these guys would have been raking them in. Perhaps we were in need of catharsis after an intense week together. Whatever the reason, we were laughing.

A few minutes in, the laughter became tinged with guilt due to a slew of cheap jokes, some cringe-inducing, especially in the presence of a parent (i.e. boob squeezing, ball rubbing, dick-hole fingering, etc…). I felt like I knew better, but then laughed anyway.

At one point, my dad leaned over and whispered, “Why do they have to use the F-word so damn much? I don’t think they said that once in the original.”

Parents say the darndest things! I could care less about the F-bombs, but I will admit I found the prolonged shot of an extra-long dong unsettling.

The first Vacation, which we watched the following night, didn’t have us burning as many calories laughing, but it did feel more meaningful. Beyond that, I’m not even going to try to compare the two. Well, maybe just a little.

If you go see Vacation expecting to see something like the first one, you may feel the kind of disappointment the Griswolds felt when John Candy greeted them at the gates of Walley World – “Sorry, folks. Park’s closed. The moose outside should have told you.”

Ah, yes, Walley World – the metaphorical Shangri-La or Valhalla, if you will, of the American family vacation. Upon arrival at the sacred amusement park, grown-up Rusty (delightfully played by Ed Helms) says to his wife (a charming Christina Applegate), “As far as I’m concerned, right here with you and the boys is paradise.”

Whether the movie be old or new (or yet unmade), there’s something great about watching an American dad doin’ the best he can.

As for me and my dad, he put it best when he told a friend, “We get along fine, as long as she’s in California.” I recently moved back. This time I flew.

(Love you, Dad.)

Jennifer Prediger made her directorial debut this year with collaborator Jess Weixler with their movie Apartment Troubles, now available OnDemand, iTunes, Amazon, etc. Weixler, Prediger, Megan Mullally, Will Forte and Jeffrey Tambor star in the movie. Jennifer works for Starstream Entertainment in New York City.