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
Copyright © 2004 Susan Granger