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Wednesday, April 07, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Moira Macdonald
Some of this is actually even funny, thanks to Cedric the Entertainer, the mysteriously monikered actor/comedian who proves quite good at playing a fussy father. Nate Johnson looks for reasons to fret about everything, including his son D.J.'s fascination with rap music rappers, reasons Dad, don't have dental insurance, and that's why they all have gold teeth.
But the screenplay requires Nate to be constantly humiliated by his wife, Dorothy (whose career aspirations are making Nate nervous), by hotel clerks, by restaurant employees, and even by his brother Mack (Steve Harvey), with whom Nate is vying for the Family of the Year award at the reunion. (Mack, who dresses his family in matching sweat suits, is a shameless competitor.) Sometimes Cedric can make this sing; sometimes it's just cringe-worthy, as when he's trapped naked in a hot tub with buxom strangers.
The screenplay, by Todd R. Jones and Earl Richey Jones, never builds to any kind of crescendo; it's just one sketch after another, with seemingly little connection or logic. A sequence involving Shannon Elizabeth as a voodoo-ish hitchhiker (she's scarily vacant, like she's been taking smile lessons from Elizabeth Berkley) is especially nonsensical. There's no reason this family would have ever hooked up with her, nor any logic to her sudden dismissal from the film, other than that the screenwriters clearly got tired of her (hey, they weren't the only ones) and wanted to move on.
It all concludes with a blowout reunion, full of three-legged races, abundant food and talent competitions and if you're wondering whose family wins, or whether togetherness and love prevails, you just haven't been paying attention. "Johnson Family Vacation" is passable, uninspired entertainment, as harmless as watching home movies of your own vacation and about as exciting.
Moira Macdonald: email@example.com.
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