Back Shelf Beauties
by Willie Waffle

Johnson Family Vacation

Just a few days ago, I was complaining to my friends that I hate a certain new radio talk show host (who I will not name) because, among other things, he is constantly telling us that he likes and hates things all at the same time, as if he desperately is trying to criticize while simultaneously attempting not to offend. For example, he really likes women, but hates women's basketball, or he really hates to talk about hockey on his show, but he loves the sport. Now, here I am about to do the same with Cedric The Entertainer. I am such a hypocrite.

Cedric The Entertainer stars as Nate Johnson - a successful insurance salesman in Los Angeles. He is about to take his estranged wife (Vanessa "Former Miss America" Williams), wannabe rapper son ("Don't call me Lil'" Bow Wow), teen daughter (Solange "Beyonce's Sister" Knowles) and 6-year old daughter (Gabby "I'm too young for one of Waffle's stupid little nicknames" Soleil) on a long car trip to The Johnson Family Reunion in Caruthersville, Missouri, but it's not going to be as easy as it seems. Nate hasn't been home in 4 years, his mother hates his wife, and he wants to show up his big brother (Steve Harvey) by winning the reunion's Family of the Year award.

Can Nate and the family survive the drive to Missouri and win the top prize?

I really like Cedric The Entertainer, but I hate Johnson Family Vacation (I told you I was going to do this). This movie is a flat, unfunny mess. Johnson Family Vacation is full of jokes you have seen before, many of them from National Lampoon's Vacation. Instead of working with this weak script, Fox Searchlight would have been better off purchasing the rights to that Vacation script and redoing it with this African American cast. It's done all of the time with plays, so why not a movie? At least a remake would have been funnier (that version also had a better theme song. Lindsey Buckingham, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you).

Cedric does his best to save the movie, but this script forces him to create hilarity from nothing. He is left to relentlessly mug for the camera, try to use physical humor to cover up badly written dialogue and humiliate himself in the name of comedy. Another reason Cedric is put through the motions is because director Christopher Erskin can't seem to make up his mind as to what Johnson Family Vacation is supposed to be.

Is this movie supposed to be about the craziness at the reunion? If so, more time needs to be dedicated to that. Erskin doesn't show the drama of the Family of the Year competition and each individual event leading up to the climactic showdown between the families, so everything feels rushed. With the rest of the movie a series of misadventures with no theme tying it together, Erskin and writers Todd Jones and Earl Richey Jones do a horrible job building up to this sequence.

Is this movie supposed to be about the family coming together after trouble? If that's what Erskin wants to do, he needs to inject more heart, as the family doesn't relate to each other until the very end. Even then, it's just a small part of the story.

Johnson Family Vacation is one to avoid this weekend.

1 Waffle (Out Of 4)

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