Vacation Friends 2 (2023) Review
CLAY Tarver's surprise 2021 hit Vacation Friends proved that not all comedies need to be game-changing to be successful. This unexpected success would end up being simultaneously advantageous and damaging to Tarver's directorial career as his follow-up vacation movie all proves that lightning cannot be caught twice - especially when it's in the same bottle.
After their new-found friendship with party-hungry couple Kyla (Meredith Hagner) and Ron (John Cena) resulted in marriage, newly-weds Marcus (Lil Rel Howery) and Emily (Yvonne Orji) travel to the Caribbean with their new friends to celebrate their honeymoon as well as the birth of Kyla's baby boy. But if this anything like their last vacation together, only one thing is guaranteed: mayhem.
Vacation films are dime-a-dozen, especially in the comedy genre, but one of the reasons the original Vacation Friends worked was because of its minor twist on the structure. The original had Marcus and Emily meet and leave their would-be friends in the first act, making audiences question whether they would encounter each other again, only to discover that most of the movie would take place in their own environment by having Kyla and Ron visit months later during their wedding preparations. This lethargic sequel takes a semi-interesting concept and strips any creative assemblance away by just having all four leads being best friends and going on vacation together, turning the first act of the original and stretching it out across the sequel's near-two hour runtime. What makes this even more annoying is the fact that there was genuine reason for there to be conflict in the first film, with Marcus being understandably annoyed that two outsiders would crash the week of their wedding despite them putting the couple's best intentions first; a feeling many people have experienced at some point. The sequel features little to no conflicts aside from forced disagreements during the third act that get resolved within 10 minutes of them being introduced.
The biggest strength of Vacation Friends was its stellar leading cast, with John Cena being the MVP of the original and its sequel. He tries his very best to get laughs out of the worst bits of writing, but not even his sheer charisma can prop up an awful script. Rey Howrey, Yvonne Orji and Meredith Hagner also do great in their respective roles, but it definitely feels like they were told to be the exact same characters as before which, in theory, isn't a bad idea, but this sequel definitely needed some important character development - and introducing a baby for Kyla to use as a prop for comedy isn't enough.
Vacation Friends 2 is the perfect example of why some movies don't need sequels. The original was an unexpected success, being over-the-top at just the right times without being in your face with its absurdity. This sequel just does everything wrong, stripping away any of the original's identity by turning it into just another generic vacation film. Safe to say these couples won't be travelling together for a third time.