The One Amazing Thing About the Mediocre ‘Vacation Friends’
The R-rated Hulu comedy scores a major victory between the tired shtick
The trailer for “Vacation Friends” suggested our wait for a “Hangover”-style comedy was over.
Great film comedies are all but extinct in our woke age, but this R-rated romp looked to bring back that bawdy brand of laughter. Sadly, the film didn’t live up to the trailer’s potential.
“Vacation Friends” stars Lil Rel Howery and John Cena as polar opposites who connect during their Mexican vacation. The hitch? Vacation has to end at some point, but Cena’s character, along with his galpal played by a plucky Meredith Hagner, can’t let go of that hedonistic spark.
Chaos ensues, just not the uproarious kind.
Hollywood churning out another middling comedy isn’t news. This is, though.
“Vacation Friends” pairs a white and black couple together. Yes, sparks fly, but at no point do the couples fight over their racial differences. There’s no talk of “White Privilege,” and their eventual bickering doesn’t resort to racially-charged insults.
That’s wonderful, and an element of American culture rarely celebrated in our “anti-racist” age. Many Americans bear no ill will to people of different races. They go about their lives, punch the clock at work and come home to eat dinner with their families.
They love America’s melting pot and routinely interact with different races both at work and in their private lives. It’s what happens in “Vacation Friends,” an unspoken theme that aligns with the movie’s lovable spirit.
It’s sad that a movie acknowledging the obvious would stand out today, but it does. It also left the film critic from Salon fuming.
“Vacation Friends” is a happy buddy comedy in a world where race doesn’t matter. That’s a problem https://t.co/vD7ZqrkcMN
— Salon (@Salon) August 28, 2021
The progressive site noticed how “Vacation Friends” doesn’t obsess on race, and it isn’t happy about it.
After all, one of the reasons interracial buddy comedies are a standard is because they create a fantasy of friendship between a white male protagonist and a Black male protagonist, let alone a white guy from Oregon and Black man who lives in Georgia, that in the real world would be highly unlikely….
“Vacation Friends” joins a long list of such comedies that promote the fantasy that the racial strife between white people and Black people is a matter of perception, not reality.
Over at the far-left Hollywood Reporter, the site’s critic calls out one unexplained element of the film. Cena and Hagner play middle class characters who spend like Thurston Howell III on a bender.
It’s a plot device that pushes the story forward, but it’s also one without a valid explanation.
While the film emphasizes the couples’ different temperaments, it avoids explaining what precisely allows Ron and Kyla to live without inhibition. The answer is race. But the refusal to acknowledge this tension, even casually, does a disservice to attempts at a broader class discourse.
How does their race allow them to pay massive bills on their modest salaries? Is that something white people can do in the real world? This reporter is white and would have trouble telling the bank that my race should be enough to cover a lavish Mexican vacation that lapped my family’s savings account.
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This kind of racially obsessed commentary explains why we don’t get “Hangover”-style comedies anymore. Cultural critics x-ray comedies the way pundits do political speeches. Even the wokest of woke comedies are deemed insufficiently woke.
It’s why “The Hangover” director Todd Phillips gave up on comedy to focus on other projects, like his Oscar-winning “Joker.”
Just imagine “The Hangover” coming out today. Critics would decry all the so-called “white privilege” on display. And where’s the diversity?
None of this makes “Vacation Friends” any funnier. It does suggest, though, why movie comedies are on cultural life support.