Johnson Family Vacation

Movie review by
Beth Pratt, Common Sense Media
Johnson Family Vacation Movie Poster Image
This charmless movie not for children.
  • PG-13
  • 2004
  • 96 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No one behaves very admirably -- even the father picks up hitchhikers and drives dangerously. Countless sex-related jokes; gross-out humor; gay joke.


All the violence is played for laughs: a baby alligator is slammed into a sink and almost drowned; a man is beat up by various members of the family; cars crash. An alligator in the hotel room may alarm younger kids.


Pretty raunchy stuff for a PG-13: lots of sex jokes, an erection gag, teen-age Nikki wears skimpy clothes, Nate ends up naked in a hot tub filled with women and makes a comment about his "snake", the kids make comments about their mother "creepin' while Dad was sleepin", constant talk about how Dorothy and Nate haven't had sex for three months, an uncle makes several sexual comments about Dorothy.


Some strong language.


Brand names abound -- everything from high-end designers to cars, breakfast cereals and soft drinks.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking, drug reference.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the sexual content in Johnson Family Vacation includes nonstop sex jokes, including an erection gag, as well as implied nudity and lots of talk about having sex. All the violence is played for laughs, including car crashes, a man being beat up and a baby alligator being nearly drowned. There is drinking and a drug reference -- a hitchhiker leaves a drug pipe in the car and the family goes to jail for it. The commercialism is blatant, from the Burberry car interior to the youngest daughter's love of Froot Loops and the son's Pepsi addiction.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byclarence August 4, 2015
Parent of a 11-year-old Written byjsharpe October 17, 2009

Teen, 17 years old Written byTheTrillonaire July 6, 2013
Teen, 17 years old Written byTheTrillionaire December 9, 2012

My opinion

OK for kids 12+

What's the story?

L.A. insurance man Nate (Cedric the Entertainer) has three days to drive his family to a family reunion in Missouri. He is looking forward to showing his mother and competitive brother how perfect his family is and winning the coveted "Family of the Year" trophy. Unfortunately, his family is far from ideal: teenage Nikki (Solange Knowles) tries too hard to be sexy while son D.J. (Bow Wow) is obsessed with being a rapper and young Destiny is fixated on her imaginary pet. And worst of all, he is separated from his wife of sixteen years, Dorothy (Vanessa Williams). Of course, their road trip to Missouri is filled with every disaster one might expect (car accidents, a crazy hitchhiker, a stint in jail), but it all ends happily ever after.

Is it any good?

JOSEPH FAMILY VACATION movie isn't very funny or original. The plot is lame and unoriginal, but you would think the writers could infuse some much-needed humor to make it bearable. Unfortunately, most attempts fail miserably. A running joke is that Nate's lecherous Uncle Earl wants Dorothy -- he makes all sorts of sexual comments toward her and grabs her. It's creepy, not funny. Also, it's supposed to be hilarious when D.J. has to go to the bathroom and Nate refuses to stop so D.J. urinates in a cup and Nate almost drinks it and then accidentally throws it on a police officer -- again, not very funny (and also not very original since a nearly identical scene was in Dumb and Dumber).

With stars like Bow Wow and Solange Knowles (Beyonce's little sister), this movie has lots of kid appeal. Given that, it's disappointing that the writers focused so much on the sex lives of the parents instead of on the young stars that kids came to see. Although the Johnson family kids appear in many scenes, they aren't given much to do -- the movie should have been called The Johnson Parents because it is really about their broken relationship.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Nate and his brother wanted to win the "Family of the Year" competition so badly. They could also talk about whether or not it was realistic that the separated parents got back together. They might also talk about their own family trips and family reunions.

Movie details

  • In theaters: April 7, 2004
  • On DVD or streaming: August 10, 2004
  • Cast: Bow Wow
  • Director: Christopher Erskin
  • Studio: Fox Searchlight
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Run time: 96 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: some sexual references, crude humor and brief drug material
  • Last updated: September 20, 2019

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