20th Century Studios
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Clay Tarver
Writer: John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein, Clay Tarver, Tim Mullen, Tom Mullen
Cast: Lynn Whitfield, King Bach, Robert Wisdom, John Cena, Meredieth Hagner, Lil Rel Howery
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 8/13/21
Opens: August 27, 2021 on Hulu

Sociologists say that one-third of us are extroverts, one-third introverts, and the rest a mixture. Then, they add that introverts, who value deep connections and private conversations, have just as much fun as extroverts. Let’s look what “Vacation Friends” indicates. Two couples form the foundation of this riotous, raunchy comedy, filled with great, colorful vistas and lensing two separate styles of life. One segment of the film is in Mexico, one of our popular vacation sites, given its friendliness to American green, welcoming us with big, broad, outdoors vistas. The other is Atlanta, in this case the site of upper-middle class (or lower upper-class) people. You might think that the scenes in Mexico are the better part—particularly when you get the fill of this broad, welcome comedy, at a time that we’re not all flying to our southern neighbors, but each of the two segments has its broad laughs and even some credibly sentimental scenes.

How often do we get away from our daily, working lives, meet others on our wavelength, promise to see one another “back in the city” but never, somehow getting together again? When you watch Marcus (Lil Rey Howery) and Emily (Yvonne Orji) meet cute Ron (Jon Cena) and Kyla (Meredith Hagner), we suspect that these people will have their lives changed forever. There is not the slightest hint that of racial attitudes notwithstanding that one couple are Black and the other white, but there is a significant element of class differences. Emily comes from a prominent Black family in Atlanta while Marcus, despite being the owner of a construction company, is looked down upon by his prospective father-in-law (Robert Wisdom), whose idea of a wedding celebration is a party lasting several days climaxed by a fox hunt.

While in Mexico (actually filmed in brilliant color by Tim Suhrstedt in Puerto Rico), Marcus and Emily are expecting a typical break from work but instead have their experience heightened by become engaged. They are befriended by two extroverts, Ron and Kyla. They get into some drinking, with Marcus and Emily surprised that their margaritas are supposed to be salty but are not. (They are actually rimmed by cocaine.) Several times Ron and Kyla mess with the brains of their new friends but that does not stop Marcus and Emily from having the time of their lives, even jumping from a cliff that seems higher than the one at Acapulco’s La Quebrada. They vow not to see one another ever again. At least that’s until Emily parts with the words “see you” instead of “farewell”, which leads Ron and Kyla to crash their wedding seven months later, Ron even insisting that he be named best man rather than the snooty guy who had been chosen before.

Chaos reigns as the gal’s rich father it at first aghast that these supposedly low-lifes think they can attend for weekend’s affairs, then bonding since he and Ron had both been Green Berets. Director Clay Tarver, known heretofore for videos and TV episodes, knocks out his freshman film which you might disparagingly call a “guilty pleasure,” but which in my mind serves to lighten the loads we have had to face for the past sixteen months, a gem of a broad comedy whose good humor is forged by the contrast between the two couples. Why can’t we all be friends despite superficial differences of race and class?

105 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B

By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *