‘Vacation Friends 2’ Review: Lil Rel Howery and John Cena in a Skippable Hulu Trip

‘Vacation Friends 2’ Review: Lil Rel Howery and John Cena in a Skippable Hulu Trip

It’s interesting how often musclebound wrestling superstars begin their acting careers in action movies, only to eventually realize that they’re also big clowns at heart. Along with Dwayne Johnson and Dave Bautista, John Cena has followed that career path, starting out in mediocre films such as The Marine and 12 Rounds before channeling his inner goofiness to revelatory comic effect in Trainwreck, Sisters and Blockers, among other hits. The latest example is Vacation Friends 2, the sequel to the 2021 Hulu comedy in which he once again proves that imposing physiques are no impediment to laughs.

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Since the mismatched couples from Vacation Friends became buddies at the end of their last outing, writer-director Clay Tarver didn’t have much to work with when it came to devising this extraneous installment. Marcus (Lil Rel Howery) and Emily (Yvonne Orji) are no longer quite as uptight, and they fully understand that however wild and crazy Ron (Cena) and Kyla (Meredith Hagner) may be, they’re essentially good people at heart. So, what is there to do but have the four friends go on another vacation, but this time throw plenty of action into the mix? It’s the same approach that Netflix’s Murder Mystery 2 took, and like that sequel to the Adam Sander/Jennifer Aniston hit, this installment proves less entertaining. Shootouts and car chases, it turns out, aren’t especially amusing.

Vacation Friends 2

The Bottom Line

As inspired as its title.

Release date: Friday, Aug. 25
Cast: Lil Rel Howery, Yvonne Orji, John Cena, Meredith Hagner, Steve Buscemi, Carlos Santos, Ronny Chieng
Director-screenwriter: Clay Tarver

Rated R,
1 hour 43 minutes

Since the last film, Marcus and Emily have gotten married and are trying to have a baby. Ron and Kyla have gotten married as well, and bring their new baby with them on the vacation to a resort in the Caribbean. Marcus has a secret agenda for the trip, namely to meet with the resort’s Korean owners and make a bid for the construction of their new property to be built in Chicago.

The proceedings naturally require a comic monkey wrench, and it comes in the form of Reese (Steve Buscemi), Kayla’s criminal father who’s just been released after serving 10 years in San Quentin. Reese, whose approval the insecure Ron desperately seeks, has a hidden agenda as well, eventually ensnaring the foursome in a series of wacky misadventures involving drug dealers and $5 million of their money that he’s stolen.

Much of the predictable humor revolves around Marcus endlessly embarrassing himself while attempting to impress his Korean hosts, such as when he attempts to go surfing with disastrous results. Kyla’s constant lack of decorum is another running gag — when Marcus and Emily inform her that they’re trying to conceive, her reaction is the boisterous exclamation, “Fuck me in the ass, that’s amazing!”

A little of that sort of thing goes a long way, and it’s indicative of the uninspired humor that permeates the film. It’s only when our expectations are subverted that there’s real fun to be had, as when Ron, meeting the Korean businessmen, not only reveals an ability to speak fluent Korean but also speaks and behaves impeccably, astounding Marcus in the process.

The four lead performers display an undeniable chemistry that makes Vacation Friends 2 pleasantly engaging if not hilarious. But it’s the addition of Buscemi that provides the real comic spark, the veteran actor employing his well-honed persona of angry sarcasm to provide a much-needed edginess to the otherwise bland proceedings. Supporting player Carlos Santos, returning from the first installment as concierge Maurillo, here serving as Ron and Kyla’s hired babysitter, provides a few chuckles, as does Ronny Chieng, essentially doing the same tight-ass comedic shtick as in the horror film M3GAN. But their hard-working efforts are not enough to prevent you from wishing that the main characters would stick to staycations from now on.