Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Movie Review: Couples Retreat
Directed by Peter Billingsley
Starring Vince Vaughn,
Malin Akerman, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis

Its become a siren call for me to watch a film preview and fear that every worthwhile joke the film has was just scotch taped together inside of 30 seconds. Couples Retreat isn't that bad, but it comes close.

Our tale follows four less-than-happily married couples, each separately caught up in the day-to-day affairs that constitute life, each dealing with them differently, some less effectively than others. When the barren marriage between Jason and Cynthia (Bateman and Bell) hits an all-time low they recruit their circle of friends to attend a couples therapy retreat in the made-to-order tropical paradise known simply as Eden. There, under the sage guidance of Monsieur Marcel (a Jean Reno who is very comfortable in his own skin) they embark on a series of predictable treatment techniques to fix their marital ails.

The greatest flaw with this film is that it too closely resembles real life. The situations confronted by our troupe are things that would too commonly be encountered by the moviegoing audience that it makes the film suffer from a real identity crisis. It attacks its subject matter with as much as enthusiasm as buttered toast, director Billingsley apparently as tired with his subject matter as his character's marriages.

The script is capable, reuniting Swingers alum Favreau and Vaughn as they progress from the nightlife of Swingers to the midlife crises that is Couples Retreat. If the concept for this film were treated the way the script really intended, you would have a film that could really have been much more than it is.
But, we live in a post-Old School, post-Wedding Crashers era where Vince Vaughn means funny man, and a studio will bank on his puffy mug's ability to bring in key demographics that would certainly run from Couples like it were kryptonite if handled with any greater level of maturity.

The problem is that an audience is likely to have buyer's remorse, expecting one thing and getting another. We are expecting nudity, wild parties and cameos from our favorite litany of frat pack alum, instead we have a group of 30-somethings comfortably settling into marriage, choosing their wives, mortgages and crossover vehicles over booze-soaked bikinis and marginal decision-making. Wow, if that won't draw the audiences in, nothing will.

It's not that the resultant message of the film isn't positive: it's okay to grow up, get married, be in love and work on continuing to love your spouse, but I guess a part of me was hoping to see Will Ferrell run across the beach naked at some point.

Movie Grade: B-

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