A movie like Vacation Friends practically writes itself. A year ago, a similar movie, The Wrong Missy, premiered on Netflix but I turned it off about half an hour in.
I finished Vacation Friends because the journey was a little better than the destination. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not exactly a great movie. Too many movies like this have been around for years, decades really, dating back to the 1982 comedy Neighbors. The best example of a movie like this is Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
Neighbors twisted the roles by making John Belushi the simple, stoic character and Dan Aykroyd as the wild and crazy guy. While I didn’t care for that as much, PTAA as it’s called worked perfectly by having Steve Martin as the simple, stoic character as John Candy as the wild and crazy guy.
This movie has John Cena as the wild and crazy Ron, an Oregon park ranger who works in caves, and Lil Ron Howery as the simple, stoic Marcus. Howery is a comedian and one of his memorable roles was in Get Out. In the past few years, seeing Cena appear in movies like Train Wreck, Blockers and the Daddy’s Home movies, he seems to be channeling his comic side and it works.
The plot involves Marcus and his girlfriend, Emily (Yvonne Orji) arriving at a tropic destination in Mexico where Marcus, who owns a thriving constructing company has set up a big huge surprise for her as he intends to propose marriage. However, when they go to their hotel room, they discover it’s flooded by an overflowing jacuzzi on the Presidential Suite on the second floor.
You don’t have to be Hercule Poirot to realize who is staying in that Suite as when Marcus and Emily discover there are no other rooms at the hotel or anywhere but a Best Western, Ron and his girlfriend, Kyla (Meredith Hagner) invite them to stay in the Suite when it comes out Marcus had planned on proposing.
From there, Ron and Kyla take Marcus and Emily on a wild trip in Mexico. I actually liked the joke about the whale watching boat and figure it’s probably true. Ron and Kayla seem to live in the moment and do some things that allow Marcus and Emily to cut wild. They even have an impromptu Mayan wedding with Ron standing in as the Best Men. But on the last night in Mexico, Marcus thinks he has sex with Kyla.
Wanting to leave everything in Mexico, Marcus and Emily return to America. Many months later, they go to the Atlanta area to have their wedding. It’s being heavily arranged by Emily’s parents, Harold (Robert Wisdom) and Suzanne (Lynn Whitflied), to the point that Emily’s brother, Gabe (Andrew Bachelor) is the Best Men. Marcus and Gabe do not get along and have been in a physical altercation. Marcus is also not allowed to invite any of his workers, even after they’ve bought him a tuxedo.
And then, as you would guess, Ron and Kayla literally crash it and shake things up. You probably know the drill. Marcus earns the courage to tell Harold off and earns his respect after Harold learns the truth about his first marriage.
What I don’t like about this second half is that Emily is pretty much given nothing to do as Marcus and Ron seem to dominate the second half. And Marcus is concerned that Kyla, who is now pregnant, is carrying their child. Of course, if you’ve seen this type of movie, you know she isn’t.
They set Emily up so much for the first half that she mainly functions as a reactionary role in the second half. By loading so many characters in the second half, she more or less disappears.
The same is the problem with Kyla as it seems she only appears to be a reminder of the times that happened in Mexico.
There are five writers credited, Tom Mullen, Tim Mullen, Clay Tarver (who also is the director), Jonathan Goldenstein and John Francis Daley. I’ve read this script has been floating around Hollywood for 15 years before it went into production and was temporarily shut down due to Covid-19. In all that time, someone should’ve figured out something better to give Emily and Kyla do.
That being said, I still think some audiences will like it even though many have seen it time and time before. In 2021, are men really wanting approval of stuffy father-in-laws? The movie keeps the raunchy tone down to a minimum level. Cena and Howery have a nice chemistry playing off each other. You also get the feeling that Ron and Kyla really like Marcus and Emily because of Cena and Hagner’s performances.
The problem this seems like two movies. The part on vacation is one and the wedding is the sequel. While the vacation section doesn’t go on longer than it should, the wedding section seems to drag at times to the eventual part where everything seems to fall apart then it all comes back together nicely with a happy ending.
You may like it. You may not. I’ve seen better. I’ve seen worse.