(1997)1.5Karl WilliamsThe franchise of sequels to the superb National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) culminates in this fourth comedy that is so watered down, sanitized, and devoid of the original's joyful bite that it feels wholly disconnected from its savagely funny roots. A vicious, barbed satire of middle-class values, the first film in the Vacation series was a minor classic that showcased the finest talents of Saturday Night Live and National Lampoon veterans. A decade and a half later, this marketing scheme masquerading as a story is practically a scholarly treatise on how dumb, condescending, and insidiously corporate mainstream comedy has become. In fact, the film often plays like a Las Vegas travelogue, shamelessly extolling the city's virtues as a family destination; it can be no coincidence that this is a not entirely accurate image that the town's fathers and fat cats have aggressively pushed in recent years. (The film goes to an eyeball-rolling extreme in attempting to position Wayne Newton as a hep cat lady killer on par with Elvis Presley, the script's only really funny idea, but not in the way intended.) His sharp-clawed deconstruction of the suburban dad having been ruthlessly neutered, one can only hope that Chevy Chase, his fiendishly wicked spirit broken, has been well compensated for this soul-deadening enterprise, because money is the only thing this craven follow-up is all about. At best, Vegas Vacation (1997) simply regurgitates the best bits of its predecessors; at worst, it's a film that summarizes everything that's wrong with modern filmmaking.