Review: ‘Couples Retreat’

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Looking for some highbrow comedy? Keep on looking. If you loved the trailer for this movie, go watch it again. There, now you know the entire plot and you have seen all the funny parts of the film. I  just saved you an hour and 47 minutes and at least ten bucks. You’re welcome.

It’s not that this is a terrible film, it just doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Couple’s Retreat tries to be the rom-com version of  The Hangover, and fails. The laughs are there, but they are anemic at best and spread too thin over a far too long running time.

Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) are a tightly wound yuppie couple who pull their friends aside at a child’s birthday party and ask them to attend a quick presentation. Believing that they are going to see another power point presentation about testicular cancer prevention, the friends are stupefied when the couple announces that they are considering a divorce. Seems a year of fertility issues has taken a toll on the couple, and they are ready to part ways.

They explain that they have one last hope– a couple’s retreat in Bora Bora, but they can’t afford the rates unless they can get a group rate. The other three couples cautiously agree after being assured that they can opt out of the counseling part.

Dave (Vince Vaughn) is married to Ronnie (Malin Ackerman of Watchmen). They have a typical relationship, and they are raising two sons. Joey (JonFavreau) and Lucy (Kristen Davis) cannot hide their disdain for one another, and Joey openly leers at women with complete disregard for his wife. Shane (Faizon Love) is newly divorced and is a sugar daddy to his extremely young girlfriend he’s been seeing for two weeks, who likes to call him “Daddy.”

When they arrive at the fantastically beautiful resort, nary a jet-ski is in sight, and they are informed that all of them must complete the counseling sessions. Now, I know you would never guess it, but “wacky hijinks” ensue. Vince Vaughn accidentally gets a bucket of chum dumped on him in shark infested waters, a yoga instructor dry humps the hapless wives, and the newly divorced Shane (Faizon Love) can’t keep up with the sexual antics of his 20 year old girl friend. Knee slapping stuff, I tell you.

Perhaps I’m being too hard on the movie. Buried beneath the impressive layers of subcutaneous fat that they have accumulated over the last 13 years, there is still a hint of the magical rapport that Favreau and Vaughn had in Swingers. I won’t lie, I enjoyed seeing them together again, even if they are plump and pale representations of their former golden-boy personas. Once you get over the initial shock of just how much they have both let themselves go, you can appreciate their tit-for-tat verbal sparring. As I watched them, it really hit me that these two have never grown up. They still act like the jackasses they were 13 years ago.

Since they co-wrote the screenplay (with Dana Fox, who also wrote What Happens in Vegas) it makes sense that the movie feels like it is targeted to the frat-boy crowd. They still  believe that they are part of that world. Apparently neither one has bothered to take a look in the mirror lately.

This becomes apparent during a particularly funny scene involving a Guitar Hero showdown that takes place at the resort’s employee flophouse aptly named “The Ponderosa.” Part of me admires the fact that Favreau and Vaughn are so unapologetic about their arrested development. At least they own it, and I can’t fault them for that. They truly looked like they were having fun, and if they can make money doing so, good for them.

First time director Peter Billingsley (yep, Ralphie from A Christmas Story) spends an inordinate amount of time setting up the premise of the film, then completely rushes the ending into a neat and tidy package in the last 5 minutes. It’s absurd and laughably unbelievable. I know it’s just a movie, but come on!

The scenery is absolutely stunning. The cast (not the characters) are likable and, at times, Favreau and Vaughn are truly fun to watch. Die-hard fans harboring feelings of nostalgia for the duo will be pleased. Everyone else should proceed with caution.

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  • Stressy
    October 14, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    ha ))

  • jaime
    October 9, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    They picked a weekend that there are no other movie’s opening! very smart.

  • Shannon Hood
    October 9, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Gab and Dad
    I completely agree about the supporting cast. I thought John Michael Higgins was hysterical as one of the therapists.

  • Gab and Dad
    October 9, 2009 at 10:05 am

    This isn’t as consistently funny as I expected. Most of the humor comes from the supporting cast of weird resort employees, not the comedic all-stars. Their (Vaughn, etc.) stories are actually more dramatic, about marriage issues. But that part is engaging – although again, not too funny (and, too long). See Gab & Dad’s review at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtE89C0zfmk&feature=sub

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