Or ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation: The Early Years’. Fourth time out, there’s an all-new cast of wimps (the last lot were getting a bit long in the tooth), but the set-up is basically the same. Nerdy Greg (Jason Drucker) suffers the taunts of older brother Rodrick (Charlie Wright), the smothering of mom Susan (Alicia Silverstone) and the general haplessness of dad Frank (Tom Everett Scott), this time on a cross-country trip to Grandma’s ninetieth birthday.
And the result is surprisingly pleasurable. Sure, ‘The Long Haul’ checks off all the expected road-trip clichés: run-ins with a rival family, cockroach motel horrors, inadvertent off-roading. But it’s mostly carried off with aplomb, particularly by Wright, who looks like a slightly less evil Ezra Miller (creepy Credence Barebone in ‘Fantastic Beasts’) and gives a genuinely funny performance as permanently perplexed metalhead Rodrick. The script by author Jeff Kinney and director David Bowers even has the faintest whiff of Trump-era politics about it, as Dad heralds their arrival in ‘the real America’ and Greg wonders ‘what does that make us?’.
A shame, then, that Silverstone gets to do nothing but nag and whine as killjoy Mom: not only is this a waste of a fine actor, but of the film’s only central female role. It’s a crass note in an otherwise perfectly serviceable kid-friendly comedy.