Vacation Friends is a variation on the American style buddy comedy, but with couples. It marks Clay Tarver’s feature film debut, following writing and producing credits on cult TV show Silicon Valley.
Marcus (Lil Rel Howery) and Emily (Yvonne Orji) arrive in Mexico on vacation, where Marcus has planned a surprise proposal. That doesn’t go the way he envisioned but, in the process, they meet couple Ron (John Cena) and Kyla (Meredith Hagner), who are having the time of their lives, spending money and partying like there is no tomorrow.
Ron and Kyla’s spontaneity, at first seen as foolish and dangerous, soon enough inspires the seemingly straight-laced Marcus and Emily to enjoy the antics that Ron and Kyla seem to find themselves in. From sinking a very expensive boat to jumping off a cliff, recreational drug use and sex, the couples become fast friends, but as the title suggests, it’s only temporary. What happens on vacation, stays on vacation. Right?
Seven months later, Marcus and Emily are the centre of attention at their wedding weekend, and who comes crashing in (quite literally through a fence), none other than two people they thought they’d never see again, Ron and Kyla, who have a surprise announcement to make.
A series of misunderstandings, father-in-law disapproval, awkward situations involving magic mushrooms, and just plain silly antics occur over the course of the weekend, with Marcus and Emily doing anything they can to hide what went on during the raucous vacation from their families and friends.
Vacation Friends showcases wrestler turned actor John Cena’s penchant for comedy, illustrated in a similar manner in Blockers. Opposite Lil Rel Howery’s (Free Guy, Get Out) straight man, the movie attempts to invert the classic racial stereotypes of success, achievement, civil responsibility and even comedy.
Ultimately, it’s the movie equivalent of a book you buy to read on an aeroplane. The laughs are there but predictable, and the familiarity is almost comforting, as you know from the very beginning how it is going to end.
In CG action-comedy Free Guy, explosions, bank robberies and petty crime occur as regularly as morning coffee runs.
Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds stars as the titular Guy, a non-playable, blue-shirt and Khaki pants adorned video-game character living a virtual Truman Show.
His world, Free City (also the name of the game he occupies), boasts the same frantic intensity of a Grand Theft Auto, with classist boundaries preventing the non-sunglass wearing characters, the fellow NPCs (Non-Playable Characters), from dreaming of a world outside of their nightmarish, quotidian existence. (The mundane perils of the 9-to-5 existence are real for the NPCs.)
That all changes when Guy’s worldview is rebooted upon the arrival of Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer, Killing Eve); the armour-clad avatar of Millie (also Comer) who looks to settle a score with Free City’s nefarious publisher, Antwan (Taika Waititi).
Directed by Shawn Levy (no stranger to CG romps, including the Night at the Museum series and Real Steel), the adventure that follows Millie and the now super-powered Guy marries wholesome character development with big-action and visuals so crisp that it demands the big-screen treatment.
Performances across the board are sterling, with Reynolds, in particular, reaching beyond his brand of straight-faced wisecracking to deliver a charming performance as the affable bank-teller defying classist norms. Supporting turns from Lil Rel Howery (Get Out) and Utkarsh Ambudkar (Brittany Runs a Marathon) deliver the film’s biggest laughs, with Waititi lapping it up as the obnoxious Silicon Valley-type with money on his mind.
Alas, Free Guy offers the Mouse House another opportunity to flex their abundance of IP. That said, this becomes another example of Free Guy’s struggle to maintain a consistent tone, with various jokes and fight scenes dialled to the extreme; an offbeat departure from some of the film’s more heartfelt moments.
While Free Guy does exhibit some inconsistency with regards to texture, Levy and Reynolds bring an altruistic and kinetic energy that keeps the film buzzing for its runtime. The look-and-feel is wonderfully executed and continues the high standard of visuals we have come to expect from films set within video games (Tron: Legacy, Ready Player One).
After rescheduling release in 2019 for a premium date in 2020, and then forced to move to 2021 due to Covid, the Emily Blunt/Dwayne Johnson adventure is finally landing in cinemas and streamer Disney+. We spoke with the cast and director to find out more.
Twenty years after Billy Crystal and John Goodman – as their not-so-scary animated monster alter-egos Mike and Sulley – discovered how laughing kids create ten times more energy than screaming kids, the lovable furry duo return with their own ten-part series, Monsters at Work.