You’ll easily guess every character and story beat in this new movie but there’s enough star power to pleasantly pass the time.
There are certain movies that couldn’t be more predictable.
As soon as you hear the logline, you know the exact story beats it’s going to follow, where the conflict will come in and when, and how it’ll resolve. And, ultimately, the lessons the characters will learn.
Vacation Friends is that kind of movie, but that doesn’t mean it has no value.
Vacation Friends’ value hinges on two things. The first is whether it delivers some cracking jokes, setups and dialogue – on this count, it’s so-so.
The script by director Clay Tarver, Tom Mullen, Tim Mullen and the writing pair of Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, has some pearlers but it’s not consistent enough to propel Vacation Friends above middling.
Daley and Goldstein have good form with the very enjoyable Horrible Bosses, Game Night and Spider-Man: Homecoming while the Mullen brothers are newer on the scene.
The other value on in which a predictable, formulaic comedy can distinguish itself is if it makes great use of its onscreen talent. And this is where Vacation Friends does pass muster.
Since coming off his wrestling career, John Cena has proven time and again that he has great comedic timing – and as an aside, so does Dwayne Johnson and Dave Bautista so clearly wrestling is fertile training ground for comedic actors.
In a comedic role, Cena excels – and that’s a lesson the F9 filmmakers really should’ve heeded before casting him in something so joyless.
Elsewhere, Meredith Hagner has perfected her brand of trilly comedy with an edge while Lil Rel Howery is so wound tight and twitchy, he might pop off like a cork, leaving Orji to mostly play the straight woman in the quartet.
But everyone here has been cast well and the chemistry works to entertain.
The been-there-seen-that story is centred on Marcus (Howery) and Emily (Orji), a couple who goes on holidays in Mexico. When Marcus’ perfectly planned itinerary goes awry, he and Emily meet the carefree and wild Ron (Cena) and Kyla (Hagner).
Ron and Kyla take life as it comes, and if that means cocaine-fuelled benders that end up with sunk jet skis. Despite their best efforts, Marcus and Emily end up roped into their shenanigans.
But what happens on holidays stay on holidays, right? Or that’s what Marcus and Emily thought, until Ron and Kyla rock up to their wedding at a fancy country club with Emily’s very traditional, no-fuss parents. Predictably, hijinks ensue.
Vacation Friends is fine. You’ll probably never rewatch it and you’ll never quote from it, but it’s amiable enough to pass some time.
Vacation Friends is streaming now on Disney+
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Originally published as Vacation Friends review: Comedic talent saves predictable movie