JOHNSON FAMILY VACATION
Renewing Family Bonds
Release Date: April 07, 2004
Starring: Cedric the Entertainer,
Vanessa William, Shannon
Elizabeth, Solange Knowles,
Bow Wow, Gabby Soleil, Steve
Harvey, and Aloma Wright
Audience: Older children to adults
Runtime: 95 minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director: Christopher Erskin
Paul Hall, Eric C. Rhone,
Cedric the Entertainer, and
Producer: Paul Hall, Eric C. Rhone,
Cedric the Entertainer, and
Wendy Park EXECUTIVE PRODUCER:
Writer: Todd R. Jones and Earl Richey
Jones BASED ON THE NOVEL/PLAY
Address Comments To:Peter Rice, President
Fox Searchlight Pictures
20th Century Fox Film Corp.
A Division of Fox, Inc.
10201 West Pico Blvd., Bldg. 38
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phone: (310) 369-4402
Cedric the Entertainer stars as Nate Johnson, a successful California insurance salesman who’s taking his family to his mother’s annual family reunion in Missouri. The annual reunion involves a literal competition for the Johnson Family of the Year trophy between he and his older brother Mack (played by Steve Harvey), a competition Mack always wins. Nate is determined to win this year, but what Mack and his mother don’t know is that Nate and his wife, Dorothy, played by Vanessa Williams, are living in separate houses just down the street from one another. Nate lives with their teenage son D.J., and Dorothy lives with their two daughters, teenager Nikki and little Destiny. Apparently, Nate has been less than supportive of Dorothy’s attempt to get a tax accountant’s license. She also feels he doesn’t pay enough attention to her or the kids.
Nate desperately wants to get back with his wife and hopes that the long trip will help the family restore the bonds that have been broken. Dorothy is still upset with him, however, so nearly everything Nate tries has the opposite effect of his intent. Then, when the vacation trip encounters one mishap after another, it remains to be seen whether the Johnson family can bond together sufficiently to beat Nate’s brother and his family – assuming, of course, that they can reach Missouri at all.
The adult characters in this family comedy are well-developed, but the children less so. Also, instead of developing solid plots and sub-plots that run all the way through the story, the movie is more of a hodgepodge of incidents. Both of these things undercut the performance of Cedric the Entertainer, who’s one of America’s funniest comic actors. Finally, the direction at times seems a bit sloppy, as if the director rushed his actors and his crew to just finish some scenes, scenes which probably were not well thought out originally.
JOHNSON FAMILY VACATION contains seven mostly light obscenities and some light sexual innuendo between Nate and his wife and regarding Nate’s goofy cousin. Furthermore, the Johnson family finds out that a hitchhiker they pick up is into witchcraft and Satanism; the hitchhiker also leaves behind a marijuana pipe which gets them into trouble with the police. Thus, the PG-13 rating for this movie seems deserved, despite its positive moral worldview and Christian content.
Despite funny moments, decent performances and some Christian content, JOHNSON FAMILY VACATION is not quite as enjoyable a family film as one might expect, considering the talent involved. A tighter script and solid direction would have helped immensely. The movie also has a PG-13 rating, due to mostly light foul language, some light sexual innuendo, and a brief bit about a marijuana pipe. Eventually, however, the family bonds together again in spite of their mishaps and troubles.