Review: Couples Retreat
PLOT: A group of friends facing middle age start wondering if theyve lost the spark that their marriages once had. When one couple convinces the rest that they could all use a vacation, they are lead to an island resort specializing in strengthening relationships. Once there, they find that they are in for more work than they bargained for. And they also find that the vows they once shared have long since been forgotten. Basically, the guys from SWINGERS grew up and now are facing middle age.
A long time ago, in a TV land far, far away, there were two television shows that flourished in corny and predictable love and laughs. It was a time when The Love Boat sailed and saw a ton of romance and heartbreak, usually capped off with a happy ending. And then there was Fantasy Island, a paradise that sometimes became a nightmare
but again, it usually ended quite nicely. Each episode consisted of a steady diet of small screen celebrities including but not limited to, Charo, Marion Ross, Florence Henderson and Carol Channing. Im guessing a good many of you reading this will have absolutely no idea who these people are and probably dont care. Ive heard rumors about this ship heading back into Hollywood waters, and Fantasy Island has returned with a cancelled 1998 series with Malcolm McDowell. It is only a matter of time before either of these find themselves revamped or remade. But if you are interested in seeing what Love Boat or Fantasy Island is like, you need look no further than the latest film from Vince Vaughn, COUPLES RETREAT.
Sure, Couples Retreat is a major motion picture from Universal, and it has a ton of pretty big name stars, but it is just as lame and ridiculous as the previously mentioned shows. While things seem good for Dave and Ronnie (Vince Vaughn and Malin Akerman) and their two children, it is far from perfect. They love and respect each other, although hed rather play Guitar Hero than go looking for new tile for the house. But they really are, a normal, mostly well adjusted married couple. As for their friends, it is a mixed bag. Jason and Cynthia (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell) are much too organized for their own good. They also find a certain pleasure in showing the gang Powerpoint presentations, sometimes involving ball cancer. Then there is Joey and Lucy (John Favreau and Kristen Davis) who seem to have moved on and they are long past the flame of romance. And not to be undone, their good buddy Shane (Faizon Love) recently survived a divorce and is now having a fling with a much younger girl named Trudy (Kali Hawk).
Within each of these relationships, it seems somethings got to give. And it does when, Jason and Cynthia let the rest of them know that they are thinking of divorce. But they have hope, in an island paradise that promises to bring answers to couples in trouble. Thankfully, this little slice of heaven offers a group rate, so Jason (along with Cynthia) convince everyone to come along. But much like every other comedy like this, nothing is as it seems. As lush and beautiful as the vacation looks to be, each couple must see a therapist to iron out the problems in their marriage. So fun in the sun comes last, as therapy and swimming with lemon sharks is the priority. At least, that is according to the man in charge, Marcel (Jean Reno). I wont get into the specifics, but if youve seen one middle aged crazy flick, youve seen this one. The mix of drama and comedy is uneven and the comedy is hardly all that lowbrow and even more upsetting, not very funny and nowhere near smart.
What happened here? This is a terrific cast, and Im sure many will be thrilled to see the dudes from SWINGERS several years later. Even director Peter Billingsley manages to keep things looking pretty and occasionally find a laugh. But the script, written by John Favreau, Vince Vaughn and Dana Fox is neither witty nor charming. It has its moments, but it relies on a very basic and clichéd look at the struggle between man and woman. The arguments are none too surprising, and the reasons why they do what they do feel false. I have to admit, somewhere beneath all of the nonsense, there might have been a sweet little story about keeping love alive. But once they get away from it all, the heart and soul of the film seems empty and void.
It was strange seeing this wonderfully talented group of actors surrounded by such a poorly executed comedy. Not that it was all bad. I have to say I was quite surprised with the chemistry between Malin and Vince. Both give good performances, as do the rest of the cast. While I was incredibly annoyed by Jason Batemans character, he seemed to have fun with what he was doing. But Ill be honest, there are a ton of people that are going to like this. The audience with me laughed heartily at each and every bit of dialogue, including Vaughns use of the word ass-tastic. But I have to say that the humor is much too obvious, and even worse, sometimes downright dreadful. Couples Retreat basically comes down to a group of friends wanting to work on a project together, and they did. These friends happen to be pretty talented, and they really wanted to make a fun project. Yet this is hardly any fun. It is predictable and safe, with only a few bright spots thanks to the talented cast and the good times they seemed to have. My rating 4/10 -- JimmyO
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