The 2021 comedy “Vacation Friends” had a premise so thin that it scarcely counts as high concept: One couple befriends another couple on holiday, only to realize that the other couple is a little too wild. It worked, just barely, because the couples were played by Lil Rel Howery, Yvonne Orji, Meredith Hagner and John Cena, all of them funny and charming with bubbly, upbeat chemistry. The story of clashing personalities and adventures gone wrong was dull and uninspired, but the cast members, clearly enjoying themselves, kept things brisk and mildly entertaining.
That cast returns for “Vacation Friends 2,” a perfunctory sequel with an even duller story. (The first movie’s director, Clay Tarver, returns too.) Howery and Orji, as the timid newlyweds Marcus and Emily, are off on another holiday with their kooky friends Ron and Kyla (Cena and Hagner), this time at a luxury resort in the Caribbean. They’re joined by Kyla’s father, Reese (Steve Buscemi), a squirrelly man with a criminal past whose approval Ron desperately seeks, and by Yeon (Ronny Chieng), a testy owner of the resort, with whom Marcus hopes to land a business deal.
Marcus’s efforts to woo Yeon, as well as Ron’s campaign to win over his skeptical father-in-law, are nothing more than glorified sitcom plots, and as the harried friends careen across the resort through a series of comical mishaps, the movie has the feel of a TV rerun. More compelling are the too-rare moments of plotless leisure, when the charismatic holidaymakers guzzle rum, snort cocaine and just riff. Cena manages to squeeze a very funny bit from the action of picking up a brunch menu — no artificial dramatic stakes necessary.
Vacation Friends 2
Rated R for strong language, sexual content, action violence, drug use and more holiday debauchery. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. Watch on Hulu.
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