Director: Peter Billingsley
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Malin Ackerman, Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis, Kali Hawk, Faizon Love, Jean Reno
RunTime: 1 hr 47 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: NC-16 (Sexual references)
Official Website: http://www.couplesretreatmovie.com/
Opening Day: 3 December 2009
Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Malin Akerman, Kristin Davis, Kristen Bell and Faizon Love star in Universal Pictures' upcoming comedy "Couples Retreat." Based on an original idea of Vaughn's, the comedy follows four Midwestern couples who embark on a journey to a tropical island resort. While one of the couples is there to work on their marriage, the other three set out to jet ski, spa and enjoy some fun in the sun. They soon discover that participation in the resort’s couples therapy is not optional. Suddenly, their group-rate vacation comes at a price. What follows is a hilarious look at real world problems faced by all couples.
How do you make comedy out of four couples each confronting their own unique problems in their relationships? By sending them off to an island paradise to sort out their woes, apparently. At least that’s what Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau (the duo behind comedy hit “Swingers”) try to do in their latest comedy effort, “Couples Retreat”.
Vaughn and Malin Akerman play Dave and Ronnie, one of four Chicago couples in the story, their problem Ronnie’s lack of time spent with his wife and on his family. Jon Favreau and Kristin Davis play Joey and Lucy, the two high-school sweethearts who have lost that lovin feeling after many years of marriage. Faizon Love and Kali Hawk are newly-divorced fat-boy Shane and his much-younger girlfriend Trudy, Shane’s lack of confidence in himself and the relationship upsetting Trudy.
But the reason they end up on the island is Jason Bateman and Kristin Bell’s husband-and-wife couple, who find their marriage driven to divorce by their inability to have a child. Their last shot of saving their marriage is some couples therapy on a remote tropical island. So they drag their friends along, promising some fun time with the sand and the sea. Quite the star-studded cast has been assembled for this “Couples Retreat”, and you can be forgiven for thinking that you’re in for a hilarious ride.
Alas, the directing-debut of Vaughn and Favreau’s long-time producer, Peter Billingsley, is a surprisingly insipid comedy that fails to amuse for most of its time. Gone are the trademark risqué humour that made “Swingers” such a delightful pleasure- here, Vaughn, Favreau and co-writer Dana Fox have decided to keep the material strictly in PG-13 territory, so aside from some suggestive yoga postures, don’t be expecting any lewd jokes.
Instead of good ol’ Vaughn-Favreau raunchy humour, “Couples Retreat” revels in Hollywood- formulaic sight gags that only grow ever more tiresome. A shark-attack during a scuba-diving exercise has Vaughn’s Ronnie gasping in exasperation, the retreat’s leader is one French guru (played by Jean Reno) full of New-Age psychobabble, and Love’s Shane is the resident fat-boy made to put up with recycled size-challenged jokes from previous Hollywood comedies. Indeed, the blandness of this exercise makes one wonder if Vaughn and Favreau actually put much time into writing this script.
Perhaps not- since the funniest gag in the movie is a piece of toilet humor told twice that doesn’t involve any of the adults. Maybe Vaughn and Favreau thought they could get away with their usual chemistry and smart-talk. Enjoyable as this may be, it is unfortunately not enough to disguise the rest of this sloppily conceived film. Ditto too for the rest of talented cast, whose energetic performances are nonetheless let down by a movie that is too lazy for its own good.
What really takes the cake is its unbelievable happily-ever-after ending, a conclusion so rushed and abrupt it looked like it was tacked on as an afterthought. By the time that rolls along, you’ve already confirmed your worst suspicions that this was a comedy so careless in execution that it deserves a rewrite. Before they decided to send four couples on a retreat to repair their relationship, Vaughn and Favreau should very well have taken one to fix their script.
(Not the talented cast or the sporadically funny gags can save this retreat from being neither fun nor funny)
Review by Gabriel Chong