Here’s some news for you: Vegas Vacation (note the lack of the “National Lampoon” tag slapped on all the series’ other entries) actually isn’t the worst film in the long-running Vacation franchise. I say that because it currently has a much lower rating than the near-atrocious National Lampoon’s European Vacation (which is the worst one) on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, which seems unfair, considering how much more irritating that film was than this one, which is merely a pleasantly unfunny bore (and not an absolutely repugnant one, mind you). But yeah, it’s still bad.
As if the Griswolds hadn’t already taken enough disastrous trips already, now they’re flying to Las Vegas as a result of Clark’s huge bonus, with Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) unexpectedly showing up later. Unlike that quintessential first Vacation (when they reused "Holiday Road" for the thousandth @#$%^& time in the series for this film, I wanted to scream), however, it’s not the journey that’s the central focus here, but the destination itself, which provides just as much laughs as you might expect from Elisa Bell’s terribly uninspired script and the bizarre tameness of everything going on . Seriously, out of all the films in the series, why did the one about SIN FRICKIN' CITY have to be castrated to a completely family-friendly PG? Wouldn’t leaning into the place’s R-rated danger and excesses have produced more genuinely biting laughs and satire than removing all of it? Come on, people.
Anyway, as I already said beforehand, Vegas Vacation at least didn’t outright aggravate me as much as European Vacation, but it definitely wasn’t funny either. In fact, I sat stony-faced through this one as long as I laughed in the original Vacation, and if you’ve read my review for that particular film, you’ll know that that’s some very bad news indeed. Yes, Quaid helps things go down easier with his typically effortless redneck charm, but otherwise, this even rivals European Vacation for how brain-dead and forgettable (name one memorable scene from either film, I dare you) the so-called “comedy” is.
In fact, this film isn’t even a comedy at all: it’s a 93-minute commercial for Las Vegas and all its tourist attractions, including the Hoover Dam (“I am your dam guide… Take all the dam pictures you want. Now are there any dam questions?”—so clever, I know), Siegfried & Roy (kind of ironic, considering what happened to them only a few years after the film was released), and Wayne Newton (no comment). Maybe that’s why so little of the city’s darker, seedier side is on display here.