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Johnson Family Vacation

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Johnson Family Vacation

Starring: Cedric the Entertainer, Lil Bow Wow
Director: Christopher Erskin
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 96 Minutes
Release Date: April 2004
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Shannon Elizabeth, Steve Harvey, Philip Bolden, Chris Hardwick, Solange Knowles, Lorna Scott, Gabby Soleil, Vanessa L. Williams, Aloma Wright

Review by Susan Granger
1½ stars out of 4

As amusing as he is, on occasion, Cedric the Entertainer is no Eddie Murphy. So when he attempts to play multiple parts in this lackluster cross-country trek, the comedy just falls flat.

The story begins in Los Angeles as Nate Johnson (Cedric) and his hip-hop-hyped son (Bow Wow) pick up his new Lincoln Navigator. But the SUV he ordered isn't ready, so Nate agrees to take a 'loaner,' rigged with every gadget available, to drive to a family reunion in Caruthersville, Missouri. Then they're off with his estranged wife Dorothy (Vanessa Williams) and two daughters. The older (Solange Knowles, Beyonce's kid sister) is an incipient Lolita, attached to a cellphone, while the younger (Gabby Soleil) brings along her imaginary dog, Sir Barks-A-Lot.

The three-day trip seems like an eternity, beginning with Nate's road rage at a truck driver who forces him off the road. When they arrive at the Four Seasonings Hotel in Arizona, Nate is eager to make up with his wife, who plays the sexual trump card far too often. Meanwhile, he's constantly being needled by his competitive older brother (Steve Harvey), who is determined to win the "Family of the Year" trophy. None of this is very funny, including an Indian casino visit, a cement-truck fiasco and an encounter with a sexy, hitch-hiking witch (Shannon Elizabeth).

Music video/commercial director Christopher Erskine is a feature film novice, as are sibling screenwriters Todd R. Jones and Earl Richey Jones - and it shows in the episodic, uneven pacing and risqué dialogue. The kinfolk are crude caricatures, while Cedric's over-the-top "Uncle Earl" is unintelligible. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Johnson Family Vacation" is a silly, disaster-prone 4. Their predictable mishaps rarely rise above the level of gross mediocrity.

Copyright © 2004 Susan Granger

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