Why Cedric the Entertainer and Steve Harvey continue to make
movies — in spite of apparent critical distaste — is
perplexing. Why they attempted to remake a seminal piece of
cinematic comedy — namely, “National Lampoon’s
Family Vacation” — is utterly inexplicable. Remaking
the Chevy Chase classic, though, is what the two Kings of Comedy
have done in “Johnson Family Vacation.”

Nate Johnson (Cedric the Entertainer) has long awaited his
family’s upcoming reunion. Sure, he’ll have an
opportunity to see his distanced relatives; more importantly,
though, he’ll be able to compete against his older brother,
Mack (Steve Harvey) for the highly coveted Family-of-the-Year
crown.

After earning a job promotion, Nate purchases a new Lincoln
Navigator, gathers his wife (Vanessa Williams), from whom
he’s legally separated, and two children (played by Bow Wow
and Selange Knowles) and departs hastily from California to reach
Missouri as quickly as he can. From the trip’s commencement,
plans go awry, and the Johnsons’ journey to a family outing
becomes a complete debacle.

The comedy style of Cedric and Harvey (although Harvey is used
very sparingly) simply cannot sustain a film of this nature. Both
men are adept stand-up comedians, but their tired jokes about
hip-hop culture and race relations are not enough to support a plot
that is driven primarily by dialogue in a cramped car between four
family members.

Cedric’s other three family members and the rest of the
supporting cast also provide him with little support. As his
dissatisfied, prudish wife, Williams is little more than a
nuisance; and Bow Wow’s and Knowles’s characters are,
as is to be expected, empty. Shannon Elizabeth fails as a sexy,
covertly demonic hitchhiker, and Christopher B. Duncan (TVs
“The District”) exhausts even more his recurring role
of exceedingly sophisticated, cultured nerd.

“Vacation” is, in its essence, a reckless
amalgamation of generally tired material. Cedric and Harvey had
innovative ideas in their earlier days, but most of their material
is now simply pedestrian — it’s the stuff that floods
BET’s airwaves nightly on ComicView. Moreover, the broad
story behind “Vacation” is one that is duly familiar to
any fan of comedies. To adapt it some 15 years after its release is
simply foolish. Hopefully in the future Ced and Steve will plan
their outings more carefully.

 

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

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