This review was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the film being covered here wouldn’t exist.The first Vacation Friends movie was a pleasant surprise when it premiered on Hulu two years ago. It wasn’t the next comedy classic by any means, but there was quite a bit of charm and heart underneath all the raunchiness, drug use, and profanity. It also helped that the four leads, John Cena, Lil Rel Howery, Yvonne Orji, and Meredith Hagner, all shared great chemistry. The film ended up being a hit for Hulu with the streamer ordering a sequel mere days after its premiere, then going by the title Honeymoon Friends. In the months following, things went radio silent on the sequel, until this past April, when Hulu and 20th Century Studios revealed that the sequel, now retitledVacation Friends 2, had already been shot and would be streaming in August. Cena, Howery, Orji, and Hagner all reprise their roles for the sequel, with Clay Tarver once again sitting in the director’s chair.

The sequel is set a few months after the events of the first film as Marcus and Emily (Howery and Orji) are now happily married and have invited their wild and hard-partying friends Ron and Kyla (Cena and Hagner) to join them on an all-expenses paid trip to a Caribbean resort. This decision is a bit of a risky bet for Marcus, as he plans to meet with the owners of the luxurious resort in the hopes of getting a construction contract to build a resort in his hometown of Chicago, something he initially intends to keep a secret from Ron and Kyla. Of course, their fanciful vacation quickly takes a turn with the arrival of Kyla’s estranged father Reese (Steve Buscemi), a conman who has recently been released from San Quentin.

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‘Vacation Friends 2’ Begins as More of the Same, Before Taking a Bizarre Detour

Image via 20th Century Studios

The first two acts of the Vacation Friends 2 are pretty much exactly what you would expect from a comedy sequel. Jokes from the first movie are repeated, the characters haven’t changed, and it tries to shake things up as Ron struggles to connect and gain the approval of the sketchy father-in-law he never met. It’s slight and mildly amusing, but it is never able to recapture many of the laughs that the first film was able to bring. The first Vacation Friends wasn’t a movie that ever warranted needing a sequel, it felt like a one-and-done story, and while there is some entertainment value here, most of it ends up feeling like more of the same, but nowhere near as successful.

That is until the story decides to take one of the most bizarre third-act pivots you’ll see all year as the film attempts to become an action comedy in the vein of something like this year’s Shotgun Wedding. Unfortunately, this is where the sequel starts to fall flat on its face and creates an overly complicated subplot that feels completely unwarranted in a comedy that most viewers will just throw on in the background while having a few drinks.

The film is also trying to juggle far too many plots at once. Not only is there the introduction of Reese, but the film also spends quite a bit of time following Marcus attempting to win over the approval of the resort chain’s vice president Yeon (Ronny Chieng). Then there’s the return of Maurillo (Carlos Santos), the hotel concierge who befriends the couples in the first film, and tags along as the nanny of Ron and Kyla’s baby. There’s also an underdeveloped subplot regarding Emily debating about whether or not she wants to have a baby with Ron.

It’s a lot for a sequel to a film called Vacation Friends. While you’ll always want to up the stakes when making a sequel, there’s almost too much going on here that, for the most part, it forgets to bring in all the laughs that made the first film so successful. While the shtick of the first film was able to make for an entertaining 100 minutes, it starts to wear itself very thin here, especially as the film gets way too carried away when it brings in the action elements.

The Stars of ‘Vacation Friends 2’ Make It Salvageable

Yvonne Orji, Lil Rel Howery, John Cena, and Meredith Hagner in Vacation Friends 2
Image via 20th Century Studios

Much like the first film, the cast is the big reason to tune in. Cena in particular has always had a knack for comedy, from his scene-stealing roles in Trainwreck, Sisters, and Blockers, to his role as Peacemaker in The Suicide Squad and the eponymous Max series, which showed that he is capable of balancing the yucks with far darker material.

In Vacation Friends 2, Cena is once again the standout of the cast alongside his on-screen wife Hagner, both of whom are just as bright and energetic as they were the first time around. Sure their characters are constantly making terrible decisions, but Cena and Hagner have so much charisma that you can’t help but love them. Howery and Orji are equally charming as the straight-laced Marcus and Emily. Unfortunately, Orji’s comedic talents feel underutilized this time around. While she does get some moments, particularly in a sequence set inside a casino, the film feels a bit more interested in the storylines revolving around Cena, Howery, and Buscemi.

As for Buscemi, he’s playing the exact kind of role that you’d expect from him in this kind of comedy. Even with the sliminess of his character, he is still able to channel the quirky and goofy sensibilities that he has successfully brought to other roles. As far as comedy sequels go, Vacation Friends 2 could’ve been much worse, and for a film ditching theaters and going straight to Hulu, it does provide some mild entertainment. The cast is what holds it together as the film begins suffering from trying to explore too many ideas in under two hours. While its predecessor proved to be a goofy and satisfying watch, the sequel is never able to fully recapture the charm. You’re much better off rewatching the first film.

Rating: C-

The Big Picture

  • Vacation Friends 2 falls short of recapturing the charm and laughs of the first film.
  • The film takes a bizarre turn, attempting to become an action comedy, which ultimately falls flat and feels out of place.
  • The cast, particularly John Cena and Meredith Hagner, bring charisma and energy to their roles, but the film suffers from juggling too many plots and underutilizing the comedic talents of the cast.

Vacation Friends 2 is now available to stream on Hulu.

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