What makes a vacation so much crazier when you’re the couple trying to have a relaxing time with beautiful moments planned and paradise awaits?
You meet a wild, lunatic couple that throws everything in the water and corrupts everything moving forward. Don’t worry; it has been shown on camera numerous times (The Hangover and Rough Night come to mind), and Vacation Friends is the latest example. It exists as a middling story but stays amplified by an excellent cast.
Marcus and Emily, played by Lil Rel Howery and Yvonne Orji, respectively, head to vacation at a luxury resort in Mexico, where Marcus plans to propose spectacularly to Emily. When he arrives and opens the door to the suite, the place is flooded with their white sheets and red rose petals. It turns out the folk in the presidential suite overflooded their jacuzzi, which would be carefree Ron and Kyla (John Cena and Meredith Hagner). Ron and Kyla invite Marcus and Emily to spend the week with them, and what unfolds is a mirthful, somewhat salacious film that unsettles the standards of its characters and, of course, its viewers.
After a week of partying, drinking, and engaging in some “oddball” acts, the film transitions to Marcus and Emily’s official wedding seven months later, there’s the family drama, where the bride’s father disapproves of the groom, and a sibling also has issues with the groom. And like the film’s title, it brings back the “vacation friends” to make everything juvenile and absurd. (It’s kind of like watching the Airplane! film but with a much more modernistic approach towards comedy.)
Clay Tarver’s movie lands (or not) with its gags about drugs or cut-away shots from a moment leading to disaster or something regarding Kyla’s pregnancy or Waffle Houses. It’s fun, but it can also become less satisfying, like trying to retell a joke in ten different ways. Pizza lovers can’t exactly enjoy the same pizza if the quality dips for each one. At least the film is a short one, clocking in at 103 minutes.
Thankfully, the leading quartet cast steals the show. Hagner, Howery, Orji, and Cena all do a superb job of ensuring it “floats.” John Cena is the MVP here, clearly acting less like Ron and more like the rated-R John Cena we’ve seen in Blockers, Trainwreck, and The Suicide Squad. Oh gosh, the PG-rated WWE fans might have to start covering their eyes when seeing the 16-time world champion onscreen now. He’s like a mix of Chris Hemsworth and Ryan Reynolds, with the muscles and inappropriate lines to prove it. Howery is also great with his exasperated reactions, and his chemistry with Cena is a bright spot. Hagner and Orji also get to dig into the comedy aspect (even though we wish there were more to come from it).
All in all, Vacation Friends gets to its destination with the cast, inappropriate tactics, and surprising plot twists. But it doesn’t get much more mileage out of the trip and it becomes disappointing given the talents of the production teams.
Still, Cena, Howery, Hagner, and Orji make this doable, so at least we can venture out with them on jet skis and sailboats and still have a good time.