For a comedy star like Ed Helms looking to continue carving out his own identity in show business, signing on as Rusty Griswold for a second generation "Vacation" movie was not the most intuitive decision.

Helms, like so many of his peers, grew up a massive fan of "National Lampoon's Vacation" and the iconic high jinks of Chevy Chase's Clark Griswold and family en route to Wally World.

"When I first got the script, I really was feeling way too precious about 'Vacation.' And I thought, 'No way am I going to do this," Helms says.

The 41-year-old came around thanks to a script by filmmakers John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein that advanced the story into present day by making it a sequel, centered on Rusty bringing his own family back to Wally World, rather than a straightforward remake.

"It's a new character," Helms says. "Adult Rusty has never been seen before. He's really a blank slate. I thought the ways the guys wrote Rusty, the way they endowed him with some of Clark's traits but also a lot of his own issues and his own mannerisms and so forth, it was a fresh opportunity for me."

The movie, opening in theaters Wednesday, is part of what feels like a small-scale National Lampoon revival in 2015, alongside the upcoming documentary "Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead," which looks at the history of the iconic satirical publication.

The characteristic zany comic spirit that defined movies like the original "Vacation" and "Animal House" has given way to a more personal, realism-oriented form of comedy these days.

"It's a style of moviemaking that we, culturally, have drifted away from," Helms says. "It's not better or worse than anything that's been going on. I love the movies that have been coming out. ... But I think there is something and maybe it's nostalgia, maybe it's some sort of connection to the values in those movies, I love it and I'm proud to be part of a movie that brings it back a little bit."