5 reasons to watch ‘Vacation Friends’ with John Cena, Lil Rel Howery out Aug. 27 on Hulu

(From left) Lil Rel Howery as Marcus, Meredith Hagner as Kyla, John Cena as Ron and  Yvonne Orji as Emily in 20th Century Studios’ "Vacation Friends," exclusively on Hulu. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios.

Credit: 20th Century Studios

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(From left) Lil Rel Howery as Marcus, Meredith Hagner as Kyla, John Cena as Ron and Yvonne Orji as Emily in 20th Century Studios’ "Vacation Friends," exclusively on Hulu. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios.

Credit: 20th Century Studios

Bulk of the film, directed by Clay Tarver, was shot in metro Atlanta.

If you need a vacation from the real world full of COVID-19, extreme climate events, political strife and economic inequality, consider taking 96 minutes to watch “Vacation Friends” starring John Cena and Lil Rel Howery on Hulu Aug. 27.

This is not a Christopher Nolan film. The premise of the R-rated comedy is super-simple. Two very different couples meet up at a resort in Mexico and bond. Once they return stateside, one couple tries to ghost the other one. That does not work. It’s a bit like a merger of “Meet the Parents” and almost any Kevin Hart comedy.

The first 35 minutes were shot in Puerto Rico, masquerading as Mexico, right before the pandemic forced production to shut down worldwide. The producers had to wait nearly six months to get back in gear and shoot the rest in metro Atlanta.

Five reasons to see this goofy film:

1. Howery’s facial expressions as straight-laced Marcus. The busy actor in movies ranging from “Get Out” and “Uncle Drew” to “Bad Trip” and “Free Guy” specializes in acting pained, annoyed and occasionally outraged by any ridiculous circumstance around him. In this case, he is frequently reacting to Cena’s antics as Ron or newcomer Meredith Hagner’s outbursts as Ron’s flighty girlfriend Kyla. “He plays off his back foot so well,” said director Clay Tarver said. “It’s a joy to see him irritated and put upon.”

2. The peppy, ever-jokey dynamic of the couple played by Cena and Hagner. Their pure wackiness helps loosen up Marcus and his fiancé Emily (Yvonne Orji) on their vacation, turning it into a week to remember. Ron and Kyla sub out cocaine for salt on the margaritas. Ron shoots a bottle off the top of the Marcus’ head ― for the heck of it! They spontaneously jump off a cliff, leading Marcus and Emily to follow suit. “You’re already bracing for something crazy to happen,” Tarver said. “Just as you start to relax, they go insane.”

3. The Rube Goldberg moment. Marcus is holding the wedding rings in his hand on a public street corner. It’s obvious he is going to lose them. The question is: how? The producers create a silly sequence of events involving a squirrel and a crow. “I did a rewrite of it in 2016,” Tarver said. “I got there on the day we shot it and wondered, ‘Was this a good idea? Maybe it’s a stupid idea!’ But once we shot it and had the visual effects put in, it really worked.”

4. The classic son-in-law/father-in-law interplay. There is no shortage of comic tension between Robert Wisdom’s haughty father-in-law character and insecure son-in-law Marcus. Some if it involves Marcus’ blue-collar parents and later, an inadvertent ingestion of a magic shroom. “Rel embraced the humiliation of it all,” Tarver said.

5. Waffle House jokes. The film’s ode to the Atlanta institution will make you yearn for some classic hash browns scattered, smothered and covered.