The pandemic has been cruel to quite a couple of movie genres, but have any been so hampered by the present state of the planet because of the vacation comedy? Early on, it reminded us of what we couldn’t do, what we were postponing or canceling. it had been an odd experience of wistfulness laced bitterly watching people like Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon dine and drink their way through Greece. Perhaps that’s why a comedy as absurdist and fanciful as “Barb and Star attend Vista Del Mar” clicked with numerous. it had been just unreal enough to be palatable and silly enough to be cathartic. And then, of course, came “The lotus,” the dark comedy set at a ritzy Hawaiian resort that appealed on one level to some deep-seated superiority of not being “those people.”
It’s never the fault of the films and shows, most of which (with the notable exception of “The White Lotus”) were made or a minimum of conceived of well before March 2020. Still, a genre that generally goes down easy became a touch hard to stomach. The latest entry is ” Vacation Friends,” a long-gestating idea of a few pairs of mismatched couples who click on vacation that’s had everyone from Chris Pratt to cube within the lead. It finally started shooting, with Lil Rel Howery, John Cena, Yvonne Orji, and Meredith Hagner now playing the foursome, in March 2020. Bad timing.
And yet, somehow out of the delays, the re-casting, the re-writes (Tom Mullen, Tim Mullen, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, and director Clay Tarver all have script credits), and therefore the oddness of getting to film during a pandemic, “Vacation Friends” came together to be a reasonably fun time.
Howery plays Marcus, the straight-laced owner of a construction business who hopes to propose to his yuppie girlfriend Emily (Orji) on vacation in Mexico. Despite his meticulous planning, things fail from the beginning. But they get a lifeline when another couple, Ron (Cena) and Kyla (Hagner), invites them to crash in their presidential suite after being moved to tears by Marcus’ proposal.
Ron and Kyla are very extra. they’re loud and a touch obnoxious and make quite a couple of questionable decisions on behalf of their new friends, but it all comes from an undeniably good place. and they are not rich either, as Emily assumes supported the ostentatious room. They spent all their dime on this vacation and are making the foremost of it.
It’s a classic comedy set-up and after a couple of protests from Marcus and Emily, soon they learn to embrace the Ron and Kyla way and live as drunken free spirits on vacation. Extending the bit even further, Marcus and Emily get a rude awakening when their vacation friends literally crash their fancy wedding weekend. All the leads are fully committed and it is a great showcase for Cena’s wild abandon also as Howery during a different sort of role. They’re surrounded by some delightful supporting performances too. the oldsters of the bride and groom are played by Robert Wisdom, Lynn Whitfield, Anna Maria Horsford, and Chuck Cooper.
There’s nothing especially revelatory about “Vacation Friends.” There are a couple of genuinely good laughs to be had involving drugs, golf, and a catamaran, both during the holiday and therefore the wedding. and there is some tedium during the inevitable rupture segment. But it’s enjoyable in a way that does not cause you to believe lost time and experiences over the past year. to not put an excessive amount of significance on “Vacation Friends,” but perhaps it is a sign that we’re able to free lighthearted movies about chaotic vacations and destination weddings from the load of the pandemic and just enjoy them.
“Vacation Friends,” a 20th Century Studios release on Hulu Friday, is rated R by the movie Association of America for “crude sexual references, language throughout and drug content.” Running time: 105 minutes. Two and a half stars out of 4.