“What’s a vacation?” I hear many of you cry, having spent most of the past 18 months holed up at home with no sight of a holiday to let our hair down and go crazy we can now live out that much-needed getaway with the Star original film Vacation Friends through the eyes of John Cena, Lil Rel Howery, Yvonne Orji and Meredith Hagner on August the 27th via Disney+.
The sometimes R-rated comedy follows the straight-laced Marcus and Emily (Lil Rel Howery, Yvonne Orji) after they are befriended by wild, thrill-seeking partiers Ron and Kyla (John Cena, Meredith Hagner) at a resort in Mexico. Living in the moment, the usually level-headed couple lets loose to enjoy a week of uninhibited fun and debauchery with their new “vacation friends.” Months after their walk on the wild side, Marcus and Emily are horrified when Ron and Kyla show up uninvited at their wedding, creating chaos and proving that what happens on vacation doesn’t necessarily stay on vacation.
One thing a lot of audiences want from a movie is something we can all relate to, while I personally have never come across a couple as crazy as Ron and Kyla, writer and director Clay Tarver, during the press conference for the movie revealed how of the stories plot carries into real-life experiences.
“Well, I think we all go on vacation. You meet somebody and you sort of get close with them for a week, maybe a little too close. You know? And then when you return to the sober light of day, you’re like, wait were we friends or were we not friends? How close of friends were we? And you sort of have this freedom to go a little bit out of your comfort zone because you think you’re never gonna see them again. Well, this is a movie is where the premise is sort of what if you do see them again?”
John Cena, who takes on the role of the burly but soft as a teddy bear character of Ron revealed if he were ever to come across characters such as Ron and Kyla he would take the whole experience in his stride.
“I just think to take the experience in. I believe that respect is a boomerang and, you know, you get what you give. So I don’t think there’s anything truly disrespectful about the two of them, they just operate under a construct that doesn’t necessarily adhere what we think is, like, structural society.
“They’re fast and loose and they really enjoy the present and that’s a very rare commodity. I mean I’ve met people like them in real life and had a blast. I don’t know if I’d ride that wave. I don’t know, you know, how far I’d go with ’em, but I certainly would enjoy their company.”
One would hope, when filming a comedy of this ilk, there were surely some memorable moments that would live with the cast for a long time. Yvonne Orji, who plays Emily and Robert Wisdom who plays her stuffy and uptight father, whilst not going into too much detail certainly had a tale or two to divulge.
Yvonne – “I think it was our last night filming in, pseudo-Mexico, but actual Puerto Rico. When we did the bar hopping. It was a large sequence. The bar-hopping we did, the wrestling scene. And it was just kind of like wow. It was late at night; people were like, what’s going on? There’s, you know, there’s yelling. And then there’s a scene where they’re carrying, Meredith out of the bar. It was just mayhem but in the best way possible. And I think that was just, like, so much fun. We also didn’t know that the world was shutting down, on the other side of the ocean. So we were in our little bubble. So that was fun.”
Robert – “There were a few things. There was a big ballroom scene that I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was so crazy, but it was fun. And-and they pulled off some real R-rated stuff with a lot of fun. And then there’s a scene… I don’t want to quote right now, but I had a ball. Let’s just say, I was a little tipsy and it was fun.”
Having recently seen Cena in James Gunn’s ‘The Suicide Squad’ and films such as ‘Blockers’ we all know he can flex his comedy chops with great effect. Cena again plays against his physical type in this film and it’s the type of contrast in the role that he thrives on.
“It’s very obvious in how to play comedy with me, you use a big guy, and the first piece of low-hanging fruit is you go against the physical stereotypes or you lean into them. And lot of this was leaning in there, because on his resume he’s such a badass, but in life, he’s really such an emotional person. And I love the contrast of that. And because Rel is so wound up, it really gave great balance. And then you see this wound up dude with all this energy trying to take it out on this large, hulky man who just really wants to give him a hug. I think that’s a lot of hilarity between Rel and I.
“When I read the script from Clay it was like, this is kind of where I am in my life right now. And I know the great thing about comedic presentation of a movie called Vacation Friends, I love it because you know what you’re gonna get when you see the movie. The two words describe what you’re gonna see, so you have expectations. Any great comedy takes relatable situations and completely makes them hysterically absurd.”
If there is one great thing to take away from this comedy is that is full of quotable lines that come across as improvised but according to Lil Rel Howery this wasn’t the case.
“That’s one of the funny things about doing a well-written comedy is that the words was there. All I did was just make the words come to life. But yeah, he wrote that in there. It was where I felt like my character, every time Marcus had anything from John’s character it turned into drugs. This is nature, and this is drugs too.”
Thankfully, one thing the film does is turn racial stereotypes on their head, instead of a couple of colour being the ones up to mischief and dodgy dealings, they are for once, the straight-laced ones. Both Howery and Orji found this human story’s edge was refreshing.
Howery – “One thing I think that’s one of the things that’s smart about this, when we see some of the events we do in the movie, for the wedding, things like that, it’s stuff you don’t normally see black people doing. I think that’s what I love about this movie, it’s more or less about humanizing everybody, this is just making all of us human. I love the fact that, like Meredith [Hagner]’s character, where like she’s just comfortable around whomever. And I think that’s the cool thing we did with this more than anything. I’ve watched this movie way too many times, ’cause I still got the link. I like the fact that it’s just a human story, and we just happen to be black. That’s what I love. I don’t think it was like, there’s a social message. It’s just like, nah, if you just make it a human story and people of colour, the majority of the main characters you see, like, that’s how you do that. It just we made everybody human in this story, and I think that’s what’s dope about it.”
Orji – “One thing we don’t get to see often is… These were some of the messages when I know I posted the trailer is, you don’t get to see the black couple as the straight-laced black couple. Like, they’re usually the ones that are kinda causing the mayhem. And it’s just like, who invited these folks? We get to kinda see a different spin on that. They’re just trying to have a good time. And so it puts the humour in a different position. That’s kind of refreshing.”
Cena hopes to give audiences something to smile about after the misery of the past 18 months and hopes people will just take time out and remember the good times.
“I hope audiences are entertained and they laugh. That’s what I hope they take away. If they want to get anything else, that’s great. But I hope they’re entertained, and they laugh. I just think, our subject matter is so relatable and so desperately needed right now, especially with people having to come up with plan B vacations and alter plans yet again. Here we are 18 months into the world changing. I think it’s gonna be good for people to just sit down and enjoy a film that might make them remember a moment of their life and-and smile a little bit and laugh a little bit.”
Vacation Friends premieres on Star via Disney+ on August 27th.