Review by Sean Boelman
While it’s a bit unfortunate that the film is coming out as summer is coming to a close and everyone is already done with their vacations, the new comedy Vacation Friends is a treat. Predictable but full of laughs thanks to the chemistry between its stars, it’s the type of mindlessly fun studio comedy that has been missing from this year.
The movie follows a couple who, after going on a wild bender in Mexico with two strangers, later have their supposedly serene wedding crashed by their hard-partying new friends. From a narrative standpoint, the film is predictable and hits a lot of familiar beats, but there is enough solidly-written comedy for it to work.
The first act of the movie, which is basically an increasingly insane series of alcohol and drug-fueled antics, is funny enough for what it is, although there have been plenty of films to do this better. The remaining two-thirds are much more refreshing, essentially functioning as a reverse fish-out-of-water comedy in which the people who are out of their element are the ones that are comfortable.
There are definitely some jokes in the movie that lean on the sophomoric side. One recurring gag, in particular, is especially immature and ends up being used as a device to push the plot along. However, the best moments in the film are those which bank on the pairing of Lil Rel Howery and John Cena, who have a great contrast with each other.
The thing that is surprising about the movie is that it doesn’t feature much in the way of physical and slapstick comedy. One would think that with the size difference between the two male leads, this would have been a prominent element, but the focus here is on raunchy visual gags and quippy remarks.
Cena and Howery are both at the top of their game, giving performances that are charming and very funny. But often, their female counterparts threaten to steal the show. Although they aren’t given much of a substantial role within the narrative, Meredith Hagner and Yvonne Orji ground the film compared to the stars’ very showy turns.
Admittedly, the character development isn’t the movie’s strongest suit, as all four of the leads stick pretty close to their archetypes. The protagonist likes to play by the rules but needs to loosen up, his wife-to-be has a repressed desire to embrace her inner crazy, and their foils have already achieved self-actualization through their ability to enjoy life.
Vacation Friends isn’t especially original in the realm of comedy films, but it delivers on its promise for hilarious escapism. John Cena and Lil Rel Howery make for a great comedic duo, and hopefully we’ll get to see more of them together in the future.
Vacation Friends is now streaming on Hulu.