Vacation Friends 2 Review

John Cena and Lil Rel Howery reteam for another misadventure in paradise in this mediocre sequel to the Hulu hit.

PLOT: Picking up a few months after the end of Vacation Friends, this hilarious sequel finds newly married couple Marcus and Emily inviting their uninhibited besties Ron and Kyla, who are also newly married and have a baby, to join them for a vacation when Marcus lands an all-expenses-paid trip to a Caribbean resort. His reason for traveling there in the first place is to meet with the owners of the resort to bid on a construction contract for a hotel they own in Chicago. But when Kyla’s incarcerated father, Reese, is released from San Quentin and shows up at the resort unannounced at the worst possible moment, things get out of control, upending Marcus’ best-laid plans and turning the vacation friends’ perfect trip into total chaos. 

REVIEW: While we were less than impressed with the first Vacation Friends, the Hulu original amassed a solid audience when it debuted in 2021. Two years later, almost to the day, Lil Rel Howery, Yvonne Orji, John Cena, and Meredith Hagner reunite for a follow-up that continues the shenanigans in another tropical locale. Trading Mexico for the Caribbean, Vacation Friends 2 shifts the story from being about mismatched friends causing havoc during a wedding to a mash-up of workplace humor and an action-oriented twist involving drug dealers. It is a substantial tonal shift that results in a movie that is better than the original, even if only slightly, but one that benefits from the charismatic cast having fun.

Since the first film, Marcus (Lil Rel Howery) has been living in wedded bliss with Emily (Yvonne Orji) and having success with his construction company in Chicago. With a lucrative deal on the horizon with a Korean hotel company, Marcus heads to a Caribbean resort and brings close friends Ron (John Cena) and Kyla (Meredith Hagner) along with their baby. They also bring along Maurillio (Carlos Santos) to join them. Almost immediately, things are thrown into chaos when the Korean team, led by Yeon (Ronny Chieng), arrives a week early. Kyla’s father, Reese (Steve Buscemi), recently paroled from prison, also throws two major curveballs into the vacation, forcing Marcus to try and juggle everything while not stressing out about his big opportunity.

What becomes evident immediately is that the stress and shock of Ron and Kyla’s behavior is no longer an issue. Now, Marcus and Emily chalk it up to their quirky personalities even when they do crass and objectionable things in public. With the first film forging a friendship between the couples based on Marcus learning about Ron’s experiences in the military and how it affects his behavior towards his new friends, the antics this time around, immediately feel tame. Now, the problems come in the form of Marcus trying to win favor with Yeon while Ron tries to get Reese to like him. Reese also has ulterior motives, involving local drug dealer Warren (The Wire‘s Jamie Hector). Over the 100-minute film, Vacation Friends 2 throws in drinking contests, drugs, snorkeling, gunfire, chase sequences, and multiple instances of mistaken identity. Essentially, Vacation Friends 2 no longer abides by the first film’s structure and is intent on throwing every comedic plot cliche to see what sticks. While some do, most fall flat.

Vacation Friends 2

There are so many obstacles thrown into the fray in this film that it becomes challenging to figure out which ones are relevant and which ones exist to extend the plot to reach a feature-length running time. Because so many threads are happening simultaneously, subplots are resolved quickly to ensure room for addressing the next one. The churn of these resolutions would crush the quality of most films, but Vacation Friends 2 glides by thanks to the talented cast. John Cena has repeatedly proven that he has solid comedic timing and is game to do anything for his projects. This time, Cena plays Ron as less juvenile and dumb and more lovable. Lil Rel Howery is less of a straight man this time around and gets to facilitate everyone else in the cast. Steve Buscemi is a fun addition to the group, but his scenes take away from Carlos Santos, whose inclusion is more to resolve some plot elements rather than contribute to the story.

Director Clay Tarver returns to helm Vacation Friends 2 and serves as sole screenwriter. The first film, written by Tom and Tim Mullen with additional work by Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves writer/directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, at least stuck with a clear narrative. Tarver does not seem to have any focus in his scripting on this sequel, which could have used Daley and Goldstein’s input. The story is all over the place, and it shows. Had Tarver made this a straight action-comedy focused on Reese’s criminal plan instead of throwing everything from diarrhea jokes to abusing cremated remains, the film probably would have felt more consistent. What Vacation Friends 2 does instead is to give each cast member multiple showcases, which are ideal for clipping online. That makes this sequel great for streaming as it does not require you to invest too deeply in the main plot when you can laugh along at the random misadventures on screen.

Vacation Friends 2 is better than the first movie because of the action-oriented twist on the story. While the original film was far more consistent in the plot structure it was aiming for, Vacation Friends 2 takes a chance at switching things up. It works, and yet it doesn’t, but what else are you expecting in a sequel to a movie that was not all that great to begin with? I laughed more than I thought as I watched Vacation Friends 2, but the humor arises from the individual scenes and not the movie as a whole. I do not doubt this movie will be enjoyed as a new release that doesn’t cost audiences anything to stream. Lil Rel Howery, Yvonne Orji, Meredith Hagner, and John Cena compensate for this movie’s shortcomings with good comedic moments. Overall, Vacation Friends 2 is slightly more enjoyable than the first movie, although it is still not very good.

5

Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/vacation-friends-2-review/

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