Couple’s Retreat (2009) dir. Peter Billingsley
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Kristen Bell, Malin Akerman, Kristin Davis, Faizon Love, Kali Hawk
By Alan Bacchus
Just about the only thing this movie is good for is as a tourism video for Bora Bora. The failed comedy ensemble/Vince Vaughn vehicle is stunning to look at, but it's too good to look at.
You should never notice the cinematography in a comedy, not the colour of the water or the mountains in the background. Such is the case with Couples Retreat, co-written by Favreau and Vaughn, directed by Favreau’s Iron Man partner (and of course, former child star) Peter Billingsley and produced under Vince Vaughn’s shingle Wild West Show Productions.
Old buddies David, Jason, Shane, Joey and their wives Ronnie, Cynthia, Lucy and Trudy decide to go on a ‘couples retreat’ to Bora Bora in the hopes of supporting Jason and Cynthia through their therapy sessions in paradise. When they arrive, it’s the most beautiful place on earth to them. But before they even get to take in the activities, they get the ‘catch’- each couple has to go through the agonizing and intrusive therapy sessions.
Each one complains about getting up at the crack of dawn to talk about their feelings. And as the sessions progress it brings up harboured insecurities and latent conflict, which threatens to break up everything and thus make the entire trip a disaster. To add fuel to the fire, there is a ‘singles’ resort on the other side of the island where all the fun is taking place, the ultimate temptation for the wary.
The first act has the couples in Chicago engaged in overly-long inane conversations setting up the shenanigans. In fact, just about every scene is twice as long as it should be. It takes almost 25 minutes before they even get to the island. I guess Vaughn and the gang forgot their Shakespeare: ‘Brevity is the soul of wit’. There’s also four or so characters too many. Getting rid of Faison Love’s awful plotting with his new 20-year-old girlfriend and the reunification with his wife at the single’s resort is never funny. And even Favreau and Davis’s plotlines verge on sick and twisted.
Couple’s Retreat keeps the ‘relationship humour’ on the surface, never quite digging deep into the comedy of how men and women relate. Way too many sexual sight-gags, boner jokes and European speedo references go for the easy laugh.
As mentioned, the stunning locale and its impossibly blue waters (which look to be colour timed to be even more blue) hypnotize us into a trance so that we forget we’re even watching a comedy. The casting of a bunch of hotties as the wives and girlfriends helps distract us from the fact that they don’t do much in the script other than play off the goofing around by Vaughn and the boys. It was the same way with the male-centred The Break-Up, also scripted and produced by Vaughn. We can’t help but think how it all would have played out with the likes of funnier, though arguably less bikini-friendly, gals such as Jane Lynch, Amy Poehler and Kristin Wiig
Couples Retreat is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.