Director: Clay Tarver
Screenplay by: Tom Mullen, Tum Mullen, Clay Tarver, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley
Starring: Lil Rel Howery, Yvonne Orji, John Cena and Meredith Hagner
After originally being announced in 2014 (with Chris Pratt and Anna Farris attached), Vacation Friends has finally seen its release on both Hulu and Disney+ Star, depending on where you are around the world. As expected, this is an okay film elevated to an enjoyable comedy based on the cast alone.
Jon Cena is having a pretty great year so far film-wise, and he’s really shown a range from the action hero in F9, to anti-hero Peacemaker in The Suicide Squad. He’s clearly got great timing for comedy, which is in full display in Vacation Friends. Ron is an intense and insane character. Wherever he goes chaos follows and his reaction is just to float through it, never panicking for a moment. He is the standout star of the film and whenever he’s on screen you know you’re going to laugh.
Equally great is Lil Rel Howery, who is also having an incredible year with great comedic and memorable performances in Fatherhood and Free Guy. He is a great comedy actor and really shines in this film. Meredith Hagner is great as the free-spirited Kyla, who gets one of the biggest laughs of the film with her kidnapped story.
Howery plays Marcus, on vacation to propose to his girlfriend, Emily (Yvonne Orji, Insecure). When the proposal goes wrong and they are left without a hotel room, Ron and his partner Kyla offer to share there’s. The two couples bond over the differences and Marcus and Emily end up taking a more wild vacation than they originally planned.
Vacation Friends has a lot of really funny moments throughout the film. There’s a trippy hallucinogenic sequence that gets a few laughs, for a moment it looks like it’s going to take a really dark turn and it would have probably been a lot funnier/sadder (depending on the viewer) if it had taken it. The entire first half of the film, set in Mexico, is funny and everything seems to be going well, even though you know deep down that something will change and there must be some conflict. There are lots of good moments in the opening that even though it’s a long set up for the main part, it still works.
There are so many credited writers on this film and at points you can feel it. The humour does range from crude and childish humour to slapstick and more situational based comedy. For the most part it works and while not every joke lands, enough do to make this film enjoyable. The film is too long though. It would have been a lot better as a ninety-minute comedy and the extra fifteen minutes is really felt by the end.
There are a lot worse ways to spend and evening and a brain-dead comedy is sometimes exactly what you want. This won’t go down as a classic, but it’s still a good time while it lasts.