Say this about Vacation Friends 2: It’s not a drastic drop from the original. That has less to do with it being a better than usual sequel and more to do with the fact that the first film is just fine. Still, it’s safe to assume that consistency has something to say. Its build repeats the odd-pair dynamic of its predecessor, with Lil Rel Howery and Yvonne Orji once again playing straight man/woman to John Cena and Meredith Hagner’s free-spirited loose-ass guns. Opposites attract, so in the first film the two couples naturally became best friends over several drunk nights. However, not everything that happens in Mexico stays in Mexico, so here we are again with writer-director Clay Tarver’s sequel, which premieres on Hulu almost exactly two years after its predecessor.

This time, the quartet is vacationing in the Caribbean with a newborn named Marcus (Howery) in tow, since Ron (Cena) and Kyla (Hagner) have since become parents. As a babysitter, she accompanies Maurillio (Carlos Santos), the hotel manager who they befriended during their first escapade. Mixing business with pleasure, Marcus, owner of a construction company, hopes to strike a deal with a Korean hotel group. Given that anything that can go wrong can go wrong in these movies, you can probably imagine how smooth this process is going to be.

The best running gag is still Ron and Kyla – two wildcards who cause chaos everywhere, from topping margarita glasses with cocaine instead of salt to shooting empty beer bottles at each other – and somehow charm every family member and business partner Marcus and Emily (Orji) afraid they might make a scene in front of them. This time the joke is self-reflective, and Ron realizes it early on: “Everybody likes me,” he says. “Every single person I’ve ever met.” So far, the two are utterly charming and always come through for their new BFFs when it counts. If there’s anything that works about these two films, it’s that synergy – the madman with a heart of gold isn’t exactly innovative, but Cena’s cartoon energy leaps to the screen.

The title of Best Wrestler Turned Actor goes to Dave Bautista, as the muscular actor has starred in everything from Guardians of the Galaxy and Blade Runner 2049 to Glass Onion and Knock at the Cabin ‘ has shown an increasingly agile range. ‘But Cena has proven to be a comedic force to be reckoned with in recent years. He’s like a souped-up fool who’s never afraid to make fun of himself if it means making everyone else laugh. (To say that this came as a pleasant surprise to jaded WWE fans who’d grown weary of his forever good guy would be putting it mildly.) Vacation Friends 2 isn’t his best work, but it’s, once again, the most entertaining part of the film. Kudos also to Howery, whose stunning role in Get Out resulted in a role explosion (IMDb lists no fewer than 40 credits in the six years since he appeared in Jordan Peele’s thriller). Though he’s less busy here than last time, he’s anchoring the proceedings in a way that doesn’t let it get completely out of whack.

One person, however, doesn’t seem to win Ron over: Kyla’s immoral father (Steve Buscemi), who was recently released from San Quentin and unexpectedly finds himself at the same resort as our heroes. There’s other drama too, like Emily secretly not wanting a baby as badly as Marcus, but all of that takes a backseat to the always ridiculous machinations. As a sequel that feels the need to outdo its predecessor, these shenanigans have expanded from interrupted wedding ceremonies to shootouts with the Cuban Coast Guard. However, increasing the stakes doesn’t make things funnier. If anything, the immersion in action/comedy territory detracts from what made the original somehow touching at some key moments: the heart beneath the banter. It still hits here, but not as hard as it did the first time.

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