from Film Forum, 04/15/04

In this year's variation on Chevy Chase's famous Vacation, Cedric the Entertainer (Barbershop, Intolerable Cruelty) stars in his first leading role. In Johnson Family Vacation, the comedian plays a frustrated father trying to get his wife and kids to a family reunion, where they hope to win the Family of the Year trophy. Of course, many mishaps occur, the greatest of which is that this movie was even made.

Mainstream critics, in the middle of the worst movie week in recent memory, have very little good to say about this vacation. Some Christian media critics noticed some meaningful messages in the film, but only a few are enthusiastic.

Rosemarie Ute Hoffman (Christian Spotlight) says, "The overall message of the film seems to be that it is difficult for a father to balance the desires of his family while at the same time exhibiting a leadership role and humility—and that love and respect is most important within families. [The Johnson family members] seem to understand in the end the value of being a family unit, despite their collective dysfunctions."

Tom Neven (Plugged In) says it "has a good heart; the filmmakers just let their juvenile sense of humor get in the way." He also faults "forced set-ups for gags, lame dialogue, lamer background music, and jumpy editing. It'd be a complete waste of time and money to include the Johnsons in your family's vacation plans."

p>Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says it is "so tediously dull and unfunny that it leads us to wonder if the folks out there in Hollywood have completely lost their judgment, their taste, or their minds. From the looks of this embarrassment for everyone involved, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of all three."

Nevertheless, Chris Utley (Hollywood Jesus) urges families to go out and see it. "Families would do well to see the film together and discuss it afterwards. It's hard for fathers, charged to lead their families, to openly express their feelings of guilt and failure. Nate's secret is indeed found out, but he eventually finds grace and mercy from his wife, children, and even his mother and brother. Hopefully, in the discussions following the film, real-life families will find the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God displayed through each other."

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