Director: Clay Tarver Screenwriter: Tom Mullen, Tim Mullen, Clay Tarver, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley Cast: Lil Rel Howery, Yvonne Orji, John Cena, Meredith Hagner Distributor: 20th Century Studios Running Time: 103 min. MPAA: R

Two couples go on a vacation to the same resort in Mexico. One couple is a cautious yet yearning duo who are trying to find something more as they venture into marriage. The other is a troublesome twosome who live every day as though it were their last, which is probably a good excuse for why they use cocaine instead of salt for margaritas. They get together and sparks fly but not as high as one would hope for a comedy with wild weddings and stoner trips. The animal poop may be par for the course.

Lil Rel Howery plays Marcus, a cautious yet determined man who is hoping a vacation to Mexico will be the perfect place to purpose to his girlfriend Emily (Yvonne Orji). His plans go awry seemingly because of Marcus’s luck but he still makes a play for asking Emily the big question. Her joyous answer draws the attention of the party-people couple of Ron (John Cena) and his girl Kyla (Meredith Hagner). The two couples hang out for the remainder of the trip and become friends, though John and Kyla go through life living every day to the fullest. Accidents such as Marcus crashing their boat just rolls off the couple’s shoulders. I suppose it would when they enjoy having cocaine instead of salt for margaritas.

The vacation gets pretty wild pretty fast. A wild night of booze around Mexican bars leads to both Marcus accidentally wounding Ron with a gunshot and with Marcus and Emily undergoing a spontaneous unofficial marriage ceremony. One blurry night of drinks and sex later, Marcus and Emily depart to meet their families for arranging the official marriage. Ron and Kyla, however, are not content to just not be there for their friends on their big day. They may ruin everything. Or they could hit it off with the family. Maybe Marcus will ruin everything with his pensive nature.

The comedy comes pretty standard and actively tries to avoid Ron and Kyla being in the wrong. They’re brash and rather dangerous but they don’t seem to be entirely cruel and just come off more like college kids who never grew up. One of the dangerous scenes features Ron shooting a beer bottle off of Marcus’s head. He accomplishes this easily but then Ron hands that gun over to Marcus for his turn. A reluctant Marcus attempts and there’s a decent punchline of the next scene featuring Ron with a minor head wound. So for the vast majority of the film, we’re watching Marcus attempt to stop being such a worrisome man and Ron just chaotically pushing him towards that goal.

The humor at play between the vacation and the wedding feels par for the course of most stoner and frat comedies. Bar crawls are treated with fast-paced montages. Drunk nights are treated with slow-motion sequences and blurred vision. Drug trips are treated with even more slow-motion, voice pitch altercations, colorful filters, and stoner music insertion. Mishaps of misinterpreting sexual experiences and losing wedding rings in the sewer also seem to arrive on cue and without surprise.

There are some smile-worthy moments considering the well-meaning yet unruly nature of Ron and Kyla. There are parts of Ron’s personality that would make him a valuable friend, considering he helps Marcus save face with his father-in-law amid a drug trip and also aids in winning a golf bet. He even goes the extra mile to showcase how committed he is to doing right that he admits the bet he won of a sports car will only be temporary, as he intends to give it back after a bit of a joy ride. It’s really hard to dislike such a character in a silly comedy such as this, making Marcus’s aggravation all the less relatable, despite Howery’s perfection of such a character type.

As a film centered around events, however, there’s a lot of meandering decadence that is hard to relate with. The Mexican trip seems like it cost a small fortune and yet Marcus finds himself perplexed why Ron and Kyla would blow so much money on a trip. After all, Marcus owns his own construction company which I suppose is reasoned that he has enough to go on a Mexican vacation to a decadent suite and purpose with a wedding ring but apparently not enough to book the Presidential suite and rent a yacht. Such economics are clearly not foremost to such a comedy but it’s hard not to think about such things with such scenes of them cruising on boats, drinking shots by the handful, snorting cocaine by the fistful, playing rounds of golf, and going on fox hunts. While avoiding the usual formula of a Happy Madison vacation picture, the aroma is still present.

Vacation Friends is such a forgettable diversion it’s sure to blur from the memory like a hangover, struggling to recall what if anything happened in such a picture. The actors play pretty much as expected and the humor is predictable enough where even the setup for Marcus’s mishap with the rings proceeds with a slow and clunky series of events to make it happen. With the exception of a naked John Cena pointing out the exact moment when birds are going to poop, there’s not much to this vacation that will remain as a pleasant memory.

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