Vacation Friends

Few things in movies are as annoying as forced outrageousness. Going for raunchy laughs is fine, as long as they spring forth naturally from the plot. There's Something About Mary is a prime example of how it's done right. Vacation Friends shows how it's done wrong. You can almost feel the movie straining to set up its extreme gags, and the comedy gets crushed under the weight of that.

Marcus (Lil Rel Howery) takes girlfriend Emily (Yvonne Orji) to a luxury resort in Mexico, where he plans to propose. His scheme is ruined when their hotel room gets flooded, thanks to a hot tub malfunction in the Presidential Suite upstairs. Feeling guilty for the mishap, that couple - Ron (John Cena) and Kyla (Meredith Hagner) - offers to put them up for a few nights. After all, they have plenty of room in their spacious digs. They're also incessant partiers who lure Marcus and Emily into an extended period of debauchery.

Despite their differences in personality, everyone gets along fairly well. The cocaine and booze help. At vacation's end, Marcus and Emily have a "What happened in Mexico stays in Mexico" attitude. Ron and Kyla do not. Months later, they crash the wedding, embarrassing Emily's haughty family with their sophomoric behavior and stressing Marcus out in the process.

That's the big joke here – a boorish couple repeatedly makes life stressful for an uptight guy. If Vacation Friends had any way of varying that joke, it might have worked, but nope, we get it over and over again. Ron and Kyla take drugs. They say vulgar, unfiltered things in public. They behave in sexually inappropriate ways. Marcus, meanwhile, stutters and stammers in disapproval, as he tries to figure out how to get rid of them.

The core idea of a clingy couple not recognizing boundaries after vacation is over could make for a funny comedy. Vacation Friends is intent on being as raunchy as possible, as often as possible, though. If more than a couple minutes goes by without an R-rated joke, the screenplay throws one in, whether it works for the scene or not. This disrupts the flow of the story, ensuring that we never really care about the eventual resolution of the problem.

When that resolution comes, the movie tries to generate pathos it hasn't earned. Yes, this is the kind of picture where a guy like Ron is using a party-hearty lifestyle to lift himself out of the pain that's buried inside. We're supposed to be touched by that, but it's such an obvious manipulation that feeling sympathy for him isn't really possible.

Howery, Cena, and Orji are all committed to their roles, and Meredith Hagner is a scene-stealer as the hotsy-totsy Kyla. These actors deserve a script that's more than a series of contrived bits designed to be outrageous. Vacation Friends lets them, and us, down at every turn.

out of four

Vacation Friends is rated R for drug content, crude sexual references, and language throughout. The running time is 1 hour and 43 minutes.