Released: 27th August
Seen: 24th October

There is a specific kind of comedy movie that goes something like this. A stuck in the mud guy who lives a boring life runs into a loud eccentric maniac who somehow manages to keep living despite being borderline insane. This leads to a series of shenanigans, a fight between the two leads and eventually they make up or the smart ones let reality set in to keep them apart. At its best you can get something like The Cable Guy which took this premise to its darkest point, at worst you get something like The Wrong Missy which is a film that should be used to torture prisoners. Today we’re going to look at the comfortable middle with Vacation Friends, because I need something nice and easy.

Vacation Friends follows Marcus (Lil Rey Howery) and Emily (Yvonne Orji), an adorable couple on a vacation in a fancy Mexican resort. It’s extra special because Marcus plans on proposing to Emily during this vacation. While they’re at the resort they end up running into Ron (John Cena) and Kyla (Meredith Hagner), a hyperactive and wild couple who do extreme sports, extreme drugs and pretty much live their life to the fullest. They end up forming a strange friendship during their vacation but once that ends, Marcus and Emily try to ditch Ron and Kyla so they can return to normal life in time for their wedding… but surprise, Ron and Kyla turn up to the wedding and chaos ensues.

So, no one is going to accuse Vacation Friends of being a smart comedy. It’s not trying to be anything more than a loud rambunctious experience where a bunch of grown adults act like idiots for an hour and a half and for the most part, it’s not awful. Vacation Friends might not be the most well written of films but the basic structure is enough to give the actors a foundation to build on and try and make something work, and because they cleverly hired some pretty great comedic actors there’s more than a few decent chuckles here. 

Vacation Friends (2021) Lil Rel Howery, Meredith Hagner, John Cena, Yvonne Orji
Vacation Friends (2021) Lil Rel Howery, Meredith Hagner, John Cena, Yvonne Orji

Obviously stealing the entire show is John Cena, who might be turning into one of the best comedic actors we have working today because he just goes for broke the entire time. Sometimes it’s too much but the fact he is so game and expressive makes him the one who basically turns Vacation Friends into something watchable. Lil Rey Howery does a pretty great job at keeping the plot going, it’s kind of funny that the actual comedian is the one taking on the straight man role but he does it well. Meanwhile Yvonne and Meredith keep throwing out these offhand lines that really make you laugh. This cast is just great, they bounce off each other fantastically, give me half a dozen more films with these four in the lead.

Where things kind of fail is that they weren’t really given a great script to work with, it feels like the first draft with a very basic concept that still kinda works but could’ve been punched up considerably in order to get some better jokes out of it. Some of the sequences could’ve been a lot bigger or sillier, there’s an entire scene where Ron and Marcus get high on mushrooms and all that happens is the sky gets a weird filter over it… maybe in the 90s that effect would’ve worked but Vacation Friends is a 2021 film made by Fox, you can push that joke a lot further. The jokes only work because the four lead actors are great comic performers and make it work.

Look, no one looked at Vacation Friends and expected it to be life-changing and it’s not. It’s a perfunctory middle of the road comedy with some very game performances and a few decent gags. It’s the kind of film you put on when you want something easy and inoffensive to watch (stunning that I can say a film full of drugs, sexual references and bird shit is inoffensive but that’s where we are). It’s perfectly fine, it’s not one you desperately need to see right now or some lost gem, it’s just kind of fine.

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