VACATION FRIENDS (2021) is elevated by the comedic pairing of John Cena and Lil Rel Howery

On their adventurous vacation away in Mexico, one chill and low-key couple ends up befriending a wild and out-there couple for the week, letting loose and embracing the one-off experience. However, they soon realise that what happens on vacation doesn’t always stay on vacation when the crazy couple crashes back into their life. Vacation Friends is a largely familiar, yet occasionally fresh, comedy backed by a solid comedic cast that dishes out some good laughs on Disney Plus (or Hulu, based on your region).

Structure-wise, Vacation Friends sticks pretty closely to where you’d expect the narrative to go, while still offering a unique experience. In the case of the overall premise, where most comedies would spend the entire film focused on the shenanigans of that single week, Vacation Friends moves away from those events within the first act. That decision alone injects some variety into the story that would have otherwise resulted in a subpar experience. All that being said, this turned out to be a fun ride with a decently engaging story that had its fair share of comedic moments with a light touch of emotional beats too. Despite knowing how things will probably end up, the lighthearted tone and upbeat nature that comes from the shenanigans that go down is entertaining enough to remain engaging. It’s nothing groundbreaking in the world of comedy, but it’s a very competent narrative that gets the job done.

Being a comedy, you’d expect it to be filled with enough jokes to keep the laughs flowing – and for the most part, it executes this successfully. It isn’t filled with a constant run of humour from beginning to end, as there’s a couple of misses here and there – including yet another hallucinogenic drug trip sequence (which are always insufferable to watch), but there are a lot of jokes that hit the mark. From light chuckles to a few really solid laugh-out-loud moments, there’s some really good laughs to be had. That comes from some solid writing, but also the fact that the cast of this film are just genuinely funny individuals who know their way around good comedic timing.

John Cena and Lil Rel Howery are terrific together in this film. They’re two completely different comedic actors, each with their own unique styles of comedy – which makes their pairing all the more entertaining to watch. Lil Rel brings some of the more quick-witted impov-esque humour, while John nails the big dumb bloke humour he’s been known to deliver in the past. Seeing them interact and bounce off each other is what makes the comedy work as well as it does. Beyond the straight comedy, both of them do their part to inject a bit of heart into the film – balancing out the tone a little and making them more than just joke machines. Beyond them two, Meredith Hagner has quite a few great comedic scenes in which she almost outshines the aforementioned duo. She adds to the crazy elements of the comedy and plays the role really damn well. I haven’t seen any of her comedic work in other projects, so it was refreshing to watch someone I wasn’t already that familiar with.

In the end, there’s not really much about Vacation Friends that I didn’t particularly enjoy beyond a couple of misfired comedic moments and the awful hallucinogenic drug sequence. The pacing remains pretty rapid and the story follows a generally safe and familiar structure that just works. Lil Rel Howery and John Cena are a great pairing, with their contrasting personalities and styles of comedy providing some really solid laughs throughout. It’s not a groundbreaking comedy, rather it sits comfortably in the range of being a good, simple and worthwhile watch that you can have a good laugh at without enormous expectations. If you’re looking for a quick laugh and happen to like the comedy of either Lil Rel Howery or John Cena, then this is a solid movie night option.


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