Vacation Friends, a Funny, Unfortunate Rarity

The once-lauded and incredibly successful R-rated comedy has fallen on hard times in the last few years. From Hollywood slowly squeezing out mid-budget films to streaming giants like Netflix gobbling them up to completely ineffectual results, the genre that gave us water-cooler sensations like The Hangover, Wedding Crashers, Knocked Up, and The 40 Year-Old Virgin (not to mention older offerings like Beverly Hills Cop and American Pie) is lucky if a Good Boys or a Sausage Party grosses over $80 million domestic in this new era of post-humor America. Political correctness and encroaching genres have also been a factor. Why make just any R-rated laugher when you can make an R-rated laugher that doubles as a superhero satire a la Deadpool? Hulu is attempting to fill the void with programmers like 2020’s The Binge and now Vacation Friends, a showcase for the burgeoning comic talents of John Cena and Meredith Hagner, if also a thankless task for Lil Rey Howery and Yvonne Orji. On the verge of engagement, an uptight couple’s tropical resort getaway is pillaged when their hotel room is flooded and there are no back-up rooms for days. A friendly, hard-partying couple charge to the rescue, offering to share their presidential suite and a week of increasingly crazed adventures. Before they know it, Orji and Howery find themselves loosening up like never before. They enjoy themselves, but pledge to never again see or talk to the couple that brought out such uninhibited debauchery in themselves. With a ring on the finger, they plan their wedding a year hence, and Cena and Hagner come calling. And by that I mean, they literally crash the pre-wedding festivities. You can guess the rest, for this is no original narrative or plot, and it rarely matters. Cena and Hagner are so funny they tag-team the script and elevate it into a more-than-competent slice of entertainment. Unfortunately, Howery is relegated to whining and timid timing, the stereotypical stick in the mud who can’t get out of his own way. And Orji is more or less window dressing, without many jokes or moments to call her own. Director Clay Tarver fills out the wedding party with unfamiliar but no less funny personalities, ensuring that even after the vacation ends, the film never truly loses steam. It’s a low bar, but Vacation Friends proves itself to be Hulu’s best original film to date.

P.S. Palm Springs doesn’t count as it was a joint venture with Neon, the studio behind Parasite.

Grade: B

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