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Review: Cena and Howery make chaotic 'Vacation Friends' a decent trip

Courtesy of 20th Century Studios/Hulu


“Vacation Friends” is a keen reminder of where the R rated studio comedy is heading: streaming. Forgoing a theatrical release for a Hulu debut, the raunchy, lightweight, middle of the road comic farce “Vacation Friends” is another mediocre script, about crazy couples coaxed into strange, never would happen on planet earth, situations, elevated by a game cast who showed up and understood the assignment. Led by Lil Rel Howery, John Cena, Meredith Hagner and Yvonne Orij, Clay Tarver’s feature debut coasts on solid goodwill and the chemistry among the leads, specifically Cena and Howery, who clearly are having a good time despite the rest of the cast trying to get on their wavelength.

Howery and Orji are Marcus and Emily; Marcus is a successful business owner who planned every aspect of his and Emily’s summer vacation. As soon as they arrive at their lavish Mexican resort, however, their suite, which Marcus outfitted with a romantic touch including rose petals and candles to help make his surprise proposal pop, is flooded. Turns out, the rowdy upstairs neighbors, Ron (Cena) and Kyla (Orij) left their Jacuzzi running during an afternoon jet ski excursion.

Ron and Kyla are a wild pair, they rim margarita glasses with cocaine as one of their favorite pastimes, and latch onto Marcus and Emily instantly. A wild night of partying ensues and the couples part ways with the expectation of never seeing one another again. That is until seven months later, when Ron and Kyla crash Marcus and Emily’s wedding festivities in Atlanta, setting off a predictable wave of in-law spats, a mushroom trip, and some hard earned life lessons about the value of friendship. We’ve all been here before, but the film lacks the self aware, meta commentary of “Palm Springs” to truly break out.

But “Vacation Friends” gets a moderate pass because of Howery and Cena, though Orji and Hagner manage to steal the spotlight occasionally (there’s a running joke about Kyla’s pregnancy and whether it's Marcus’ child). Believably enough, they’re five credited screenwriters on “Vacation Friends” which suggests something better than what’s thrown on screen: a hodgepodge of several scenes and zingers borrowed from the subgenre of odd couple/wedding flicks: a cranky brother-in-law, immobile eldery grandparent, and the hard to impress father of the bride are present and accounted for.

Still, Cena continues to prove his comedic chops thanks to “Blockers” and “The Suicide Squad.” The man has charisma and he’s hard to root against and when next to Howery, playing the confused straight man, it helps make the trip go smoothly. When Marcus accidentally ingests a hallucinogenic and is worried about tweaking, Ron doesn’t waste a second: “You need a wingman” and eats the drug. Let us hope we can all have friends like Ron in our life.

Grade: B-

VACATION FRIENDS is now streaming on HULU


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