September 27, 2023



Review of ‘Vacation Friends 2’: Lil Rel Howery and John Cena Deliver a Forgettable Hulu Adventure

Review of ‘Vacation Friends 2’: Lil Rel Howery and John Cena Deliver a Forgettable Hulu Adventure

Yvonne Orji and Meredith Hagner make a comeback in this follow-up to the 2021 comedy.

It’s intriguing how frequently muscular wrestling superstars kick off their acting journeys in action-packed films, only to later discover their comedic talents. Much like Dwayne Johnson and Dave Bautista, John Cena has trodden this path, commencing with average movies like The Marine and 12 Rounds, but ultimately tapping into his inner humorist, delivering memorable comic performances in Trainwreck, Sisters, Blockers, and more. The most recent illustration of this is Vacation Friends 2, the sequel to the 2021 Hulu comedy, where he once again demonstrates that a formidable physique doesn’t hinder his ability to generate laughter.

Given that the mismatched couples from Vacation Friends had already bonded in their previous adventure, writer-director Clay Tarver faced a challenge in crafting this unnecessary follow-up. Marcus (Lil Rel Howery) and Emily (Yvonne Orji) have loosened up, understanding that beneath Ron (Cena) and Kyla’s (Meredith Hagner) wild antics, there’s a good-hearted nature. So, the only option seems to be sending the four friends on another vacation, but this time injecting plenty of action. This mirrors the strategy employed by Netflix’s Murder Mystery 2, but, much like that sequel to the Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston hit, this installment falls short in terms of entertainment. It appears that shootouts and car chases don’t particularly lend themselves to humor.

Since the last film, Marcus and Emily have tied the knot and are now eager to start a family. Meanwhile, Ron and Kyla have also gotten married and bring their new baby along for a vacation at a Caribbean resort. Marcus has a hidden agenda for the trip: he aims to negotiate with the resort’s Korean owners to secure a construction contract for a new property in Chicago.

Naturally, the storyline takes a comedic twist with the arrival of Reese (played by Steve Buscemi), Kayla’s father who just got out of a 10-year stint in San Quentin. Ron, who desperately seeks Reese’s approval, finds himself ensnared in Reese’s secret plans, leading the group into a series of zany misadventures involving drug dealers and a stolen $5 million.

A significant portion of the humor follows the expected pattern, with Marcus continuously finding himself in embarrassing situations as he tries to impress his Korean hosts. Kyla’s perpetual lack of decorum also serves as an ongoing source of comedic moments, such as her enthusiastic and colorful reaction when Marcus and Emily reveal their plans to conceive a child.

A bit of such humor can be amusing, but it’s a sign of the uninspired comedic tone that saturates the film. The true enjoyment comes when our expectations are pleasantly surprised, like when Ron, during his meeting with the Korean businessmen, not only reveals his fluency in Korean but also demonstrates impeccable behavior, leaving Marcus astounded.

The core quartet of actors exhibits a noticeable chemistry that makes Vacation Friends 2 pleasantly engaging, even if it doesn’t consistently hit the comedic mark. However, it’s the inclusion of Buscemi that injects the film with a genuine comic spark. The seasoned actor, known for his brand of angry sarcasm, adds a much-needed edge to the otherwise lackluster proceedings. Supporting actors like Carlos Santos, reprising his role as concierge Maurillo from the first installment and now serving as Ron and Kyla’s hired babysitter, manage to generate a few chuckles. Ronny Chieng, portraying a character with a familiar comedic persona as seen in the horror film M3GAN, also contributes to the humor. Nevertheless, despite their hard work, you might find yourself wishing that the main characters would stick to local vacations in the future.

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Ralph Calaway