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Critics Review
Vacation Friends review: A guilty pleasure with plenty of laughs

The movie is a cliche in many ways but still musters enough moments for the audience to stay hooked till the very end

Ryan Gomez
Aug 31, 2021
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Marcus (Lil Rel Howery) and Emily (Yvonne Orji) are on vacation in Mexico where they happen to meet happy-go-lucky adrenaline junkies Ron (John Cena) and Lily (Meredith Hagner). Ron and Lily convince Marcus and Emily to go on an ‘alcohol and drug fueled’ vacation. The wild side of the vacation was meant to be forgotten or left behind in Mexico, at least according to Marcus and Emily, who have planned for a wedding in a few months. Ron and Lily on the other have different plans and decide to crash the wedding.


The film has a familiar air to it which gives the feeling that the cast and characters are from the same cinematic universe of the long list of Adam Sandler and Owen Wilson romantic comedies. And it should have worked against the film, if not for its lovable characters and their excellent on-screen chemistry. Lil Rel Howery is steadily establishing a name for himself in the industry after having appeared in several films this year including Bad Trip, Fatherhood, Tom & Jerry: The Movie, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Judas, and the Black Messiah, and Free Guy. His character, Marcus, is the ideal partner in the buddy comedy ace with Ron. Marcus, who owns a successful construction company, is the pragmatist of the pair whereas Ron, a former Green Beret, is the lovable goof who is said to be suffering from PTSD. Ron is played by John Cena who has appeared in several hits this year including Fast & Furious 9, and The Suicide Squad.

The screenplay and the performances by the cast elevated the film to a higher standard despite it being an amalgamation of room-coms and buddy comedies from yesteryear. What sets it apart from the other films is the fact that the characters are given distinctive identities and are thoroughly realised as a result of decent character development. The script also includes several themes such as race, class elitism, sexuality, and PTSD. There could be an argument made whether the racial discrimination should have been further delved into, considering the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement. On the other, the writers may have made a conscious decision to portray the characters in an environment where there is no racial discrimination.

The writers have instead put more focus on class discrimination and mental health. The relationship Marcus has with his future father-in-law (Robert Wisdom) is fractured, primarily because his fiancé Emily is from an affluent family whereas Marcus is a self-made successful entrepreneur. Through Marcus and Emily’s father, the film critiques discrimination based on wealth and affluence. The themes of mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are portrayed through Cena’s character Ron. The ending of the film ties up his arc as well as Lily’s perfectly. Meredith Hagner’s Lily is also an excellent character for the narrative, and possibly one of the more important characters in the ensemble. Yvonne Orji’s Emily may have had a slightly diminished arc when compared to the other primary characters.


The film is Clay Tarver’s first directorial credit for a feature film. By no stretch of the imagination is the film perfect, nor is it a cinematic masterpiece. It is a self-aware buddy comedy that has taken inspiration from several films from the past. If some of the minor inconsistencies in the

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