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Theatrical Review: COUPLES RETREAT

GATW Guest Writer

by: GATW Guest Writer
October 9th, 2009

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Rating: 4/10

Writers: Vince Vaughan, Jon Favreau, and Dana Fox
Director: Peter Billingsley
Cast: Malin Akerman, Vince Vaughn, Kristin Davis, Jon Favreau, Jason
Bateman, Kristen Bell, Faizon Love, Kali Hawk.
Studio: Universal Pictures

I'd like to say that I had high hopes for COUPLES RETREAT and I was disappointed, but in reality my expectations weren't very high going into this movie.  Don't get me wrong, I love the dynamic duo that is Vince Vaughan and Jon Favreau, but the idea of watching couples hash out their marital issues is all too reminiscent of my parent's divorce from which I endured with only minimal emotional scarring (hi, Mom!).

When tasked with writing this review, I wanted to simply state, "give me my two hours back" and be done with it.  But what kind of reviewer would that make me?

When you consider the cast of COUPLES RETREAT, one might think that there is no way this movie would be anything but unfunny.  What you don't know is that COUPLES RETREAT is a serious movie about relationships being forced as a romantic comedy that doesn't manage to actually address the relationship issues the couples, of which that are too many, are supposed to be experiencing.

The movie marks the feature directorial debut of Peter Billingsley (a.k.a. Ralphie from A CHRISTMAS STORY) and features a host of talented actors - Malin Akerman, Vince Vaughn, Kristin Davis, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Faizon Love, and Kali Hawk.

Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) are a couple of anal retentive PowerPoint enthusiasts who, in trying to conceive a child, have succeeded to micromanage all the life out of their relationship. In a final effort to save their marriage, they enlist the help of their friends to finance a trip, by way of a group discount, to Eden, a five-star resort that offers relationship counseling.They've lured their friends there under the pretense that while they have chosen to partake of the resorts relationship counseling, their friends can enjoy a romantic getaway with all the amenities.  As nothing ever goes as planned, the couples soon find themselves trapped in paradise and forced by the pushy resort staff to examine their relationships.

Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis) play high school sweethearts now trapped in a loveless marriage.  Both have wandering eyes and are counting the days until their teenage daughter leaves for college.  Their whole relationship is one big joke about how they try to bed other people.

Dave (Vince Vaughan) and Ronnie (Malin Akerman) seem to be the ideal couple.  They have two beautiful children and the extent of their problems seems to be deciding on new tile for their kitchen and a toddler with an overactive bladder and no grasp on the appropriate places to relieve himself.

The newly divorced Shane (Faizon Love) is struggling to keep up with his 20-year-old girlfriend Trudy (Kali Hawk).  These characters feel like afterthoughts added to bring in some diversity and are not very believable as "part of the gang."

Once they arrive at the resort, they come to find out that in order to enjoy all that Eden has to offer, they must fully participate in a highly regimented program which begins with 6 AM counseling sessions with therapists played by John Michael Higgins and Ken Jeong (who, once again, is the unsympathetic doctor), mandatory couples yoga, as well as couples skill-building exercises. which leaves little time for the fun stuff like jet skiing, snorkeling, or sex under the resort's fabled waterfall.

The movie includes the typical vacation/rom com clichés; there is the new age guru Marcel played by LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL himself, Jean Reno. Salvadore (Carlos Ponce) is the sexy yoga instructor with an eye for the married ladies and Stanley (Peter Serafinowicz) is Marcel, the worshiping concierge who is the enforcer of the resort's strict policies.

Essentially Vaughan is playing the character he's been in every other movie (and so is everyone else for that matter).  His dialogue is wordy and there are plenty of moments where he rants about some trivial thing in that way that has endeared him to our heart but it just comes off as excessive and annoying here. There's many failed attempts to recreate the banter between Vaughan and Favreau that we loved so much in SWINGERS or MADE, but the two only have one good scene together which takes place in a sauna and deals with Favreau's infidelity.

The female characters are all largely forgettable and seem to exist solely to look good in their underwear and/or swimwear and prove that the storyline is not strong enough to support such a large cast.  You are left to wonder if perhaps, the film would have been better if it focused on one of the couples as a wacky vacation comedy.

By the end, each of the characters seems to have come to some realization about their relationship, but it just seems rushed and forced, as the filmmakers have relied to heavily on our preconceived ideas of the characters.

If you've seen the trailer, it's probably not worth you suffering through the two hour long movie, (unless of course you are a masochist).  The film is mediocre at best, with most scenes feeling overlong and relies heavily on gags involving erections or other unsightly male body parts.  I found myself trying to count the many shameful product placements.  I would recommend this only for home-viewing as the film, which was shot in beautiful Bora Bora, looks like a "screen-saver" and just as such should be viewed while you are focusing on something else.


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