Christina Applegate is an example of how a young performer can make a graceful and successful transition to an adult career, and every time I hear someone make excuses for a Lindsay Lohan or an Amanda Bynes during a spectacular public flame-out, I feel like Applegate is the perfect way to refute the claims that it’s the system that ruins these people.
After all, when Applegate was cast on “Married With Children,” she was a kid, and she’d already been acting for the better part of a decade. She did guest bits on TV shows like “Charles In Charge” and played small roles like the young Grace Kelly in a TV movie. “Married” was the moment she finally made a real impression, though, and the character she played was a heavy metal bimbo. If anyone was set for inappropriate attention and plenty of it, it was her, and yet from the very start, it was obvious she had a phenomenal sense of timing. There were a few attempts to build movies around her while “Married” was still on the air, but nothing really clicked. It seemed like TV was going to be the place where she worked best, and networks seemed determined to build shows around her. “Jesse” ran for 2 seasons, but I’ll bet most people would be hard-pressed to even remember what that is at this point.
I thought “The Sweetest Thing” was a dud as a film, but Applegate’s work in it suggested that her already great comic timing had become even more razor-sharp, and that there was a wry world-weariness that Applegate brought to a role that was really engaging. Until “Anchorman,” though, I wasn’t sure if anyone would ever really figure out how to cast her in a movie. As soon as she played Veronica Corningstone, love interest and sparring partner for Will Farrell’s Ron Burgundy, it opened up pretty much limitless opportunities for her, and since then, I think she’s been duly recognized for what she brings to a role.
Today, the news broke that Applegate will be playing Debbie in next year’s ‘Vacation,’ the wife of the adult Rusty Griswold, who will be played by Ed Helms. The film will be directed by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley, who were the last writers in a string of comic talent tasked with finding a way to reboot the series. The film deals with Rusty’s attempts to bond with his family, and in particular, his desire to give his two sons James and Kevin the sort of vacation memories that he has from when he was growing up. They stumble onto the secrets of Graceland, get a disturbing look at fraternity life, encounter a trucker straight out of “Duel,” and drop by the home of Audrey, who is now married to a super-conservative Texas TV weatherman.
I think the original “Vacation” is a great movie, and since then, i think they’ve spent a lot of time trying to reproduce the voice and the same sense of humor, and I think the only one that even came close was “Christmas Vacation.” Applegate and Helms are both obviously very funny people, but I’m still nervous about watching someone try to recapture the spirit of the original film again. They’re set to start shooting this summer, so I’m guessing Applegate has worked out her schedule on “Anchorman 2” to make sure she can do both. Now that “Up All Night” has finally been cancelled, she seems determined to make up for lost time, and “Vacation” is lucky to get her, frankly.