Vacation Friends (2021)

“How does this keep happening?”

Vacation Friends is the latest in a long line of comedies where everything that can go wrong will go wrong, until it all ultimately goes right. Think of its setup akin to The Out of Towners meets the more recent and crass Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. And while the film is perverse and at times even borders on emotional, the uneven writing keeps the audience away from truly knowing who these people are. This is a film you only watch from a distance. It’s one you laugh at instead of with, and the shallow script doesn’t live up to the quality of the cast.

The overworked Marcus (Lil Rel Howery) takes his love Emily (Yvonne Orji) to Mexico for some much needed R&R, and it’s meant to be a dreamy vacation with a marriage proposal in the works. He’s a perfectionist, she lacks any real personality, and this dim couple’s vacation goes off the rails right when it starts. Then they meet Ron (John Cena) and Kyla (Meredith Hagner). They aren’t wealthy or wannabe socialites; they just splurge for the best room and the top shelf drinks because that’s what they think vacationing is all about. And I think the film would have been massively more entertaining from their perspective.

A part of me has to admit that I liked a lot of this movie. It’s fun to watch a cast and know that they too were having fun on set. I’m sure there are some lengthy and entertaining blooper reels, which probably should have been running alongside the credits, and the hardcore party mentality lends itself well to these nondescript characters. But there’s no substance here either. Vacation Friends wants to be a movie about acceptance of others through the acceptance of self, yet it’s just a muddled and messy mule of a drink instead. The ingredients are there but the execution is off.

Vacation Friends is the kind of movie where you know everything is going to work out in the end. It’s too predictable for its own good, and yet the actors – most notably an always game John Cena – commit so ferociously that it’s hard to count this one out. The film is long, is missing scenes and crucial dialogue, and truly makes no sense in the third act. But it’s also a low budget, hard R-rated movie based on the simple concept of kindness and gentleness, and I wish it had honed in on that mentality more. Is Vacation Friends bad? I can’t definitively say yes. But I’ve stayed in way worse rooms than this place. Like one of those old wooden rollercoasters, it’s dumb and rickety fun.

“A forehead kiss is really intimate.”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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