It was originally supposed to be a lunch with Ed Helms at a hotel restaurant in Greenwich Village but — on what turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year — I was relieved to find out we were just going to hang out in what appeared to be the diner-type section of the hotel. (Eating food in front of a famous person on a day like this did not seem appealing.) Instead, Helms and I both ordered Cokes.
We were seated at a two-person booth that was strangely intimate, with our faces being maybe two feet from each other. This was an occasion I didn’t even try to read a question from any kind of notebook. If I had, we were sitting so close, Helms would have just been able to read the questions himself anyway. So, we just spoke about anything that came to mind, really. Eventually, we started talking about The Cable Guy.
Helms stars in Vacation as the now-grown Rusty Griswold, who has been played by four separate actors in the four prior Vacation films. This time, Rusty wants to drive his family across the country to visit Walley World, where his father (Chevy Chase) had taken him and his sister many years before. As you might expect, hijinks ensue.
Helms is a hard guy not to root for. He’s incredibly polite, even when the subject turns to the reviews that had been published a couple days prior to our drinking Cokes together. Helms (who I’m more and more thinking is a very brave soul) also discusses where he is with another beloved franchise reboot, The Naked Gun. But, first, we tried to get cozy in our too-close-for-comfort seats.
This is intimate.
Yeah, it’s cozy here.
I’ll get to know the real Ed Helms.
It’s kind of romantic, actually.
So, if there’s another Vacation movie, do you get replaced?
[Laughs] Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out! Obviously, I’m the fifth Rusty, and it’s never been the same in any movie. I will be thrilled to break that trend, but I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens.
Jason Lively from European Vacation doesn’t get enough credit for his Rusty. And he’s related to Blake Lively, which I don’t think people know.
And his father was an acting coach. You don’t think he gets enough credit?
It feels like the lost Vacation movie. It’s sandwiched in-between the two beloved Vacation movies. Then it’s got the weird action movie ending.
Interesting. I think it’s a great one. I sort of love them in order — because that’s how I experienced them in real time. After loving the first one, then European was the next one to pick up at the video store and sort of watch on endless repeat on HBO.
I get in debates more often than I should about the first one and Christmas Vacation. The first is John Hughes plus Harold Ramis, case closed.
Yeah, there may be something a little more universal about Christmas Vacation, do you know what I mean? Like, the great American road trip, as iconic as it is, there are a lot of families that don’t do that. But everybody knows about Christmas. And a lot of families experience in a way similar to the Griswolds. But, I don’t find myself getting in debates!
I’m very adamant.
I would never try to convince someone that one is better than the other.
Oh, I do.
It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
I’ll quote jokes and give specific examples.
So, how did we do? Where do we stack up? “We’re between European and Vegas.”
If I’m being honest, the stuff that made me laugh in your movie were the subtle jokes as opposed to the broad jokes. For example, your line to Rusty’s son about protecting himself, “Give ‘em a good scratch,” and the guy with the rat I found really funny.
Oh my God, I loved that.
So, like the first movie, subtle jokes exist in this movie. But the more broad humor from the later Vacation movies is there, too, which I know that people like.
Sure, sure. And I agree with you, it’s those little character moments with the looks and the one-off lines that are kind of asides – the line that I think, as it was written on the page, feels the most like Clark Griswold is, “Come on, honey. We don’t know that it’s human,” after she says, “We are covered in human waste.” That said with total earnestness, it’s just these little moments of heightened earnestness that Rusty and Clark share.
The car the family is driving across the country has a mysterious swastika button on the keypad. A complaint I’ve heard is there’s no payoff to the swastika button option.
Well, I don’t think there’s a payoff you can do on that that would be funny. It’s the mystery that’s funny.
There are a lot of not-great ideas that could come out of that.
Yeah, “that’s probably not funny.”
The movie came out today, and you’re still out here doing press.