- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ans of “Swingers” (and to a lesser degree, “Made”) have been salivating for the next onscreen collaboration between Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau for nearly a decade. Favreau’s supporting roles in “The Break-Up” and “Four Christmases” were certainly a nice treat, but their new film, “Couples Retreat,” is a little closer to an actual reunion. It’s no secret that the real-life best friends aren’t getting any younger, but it is a bit surprising that they would choose such a serious and decidedly adult subject for their latest comedy. There are definitely laughs to be had, but not nearly as many as you would expect from such a talented ensemble cast, and were it not for the fact that it's still fun to watch Vaughn and Favreau riff with one another, "Couples Retreat" would have been an even bigger letdown than it turned out to be.
The movie opens with an introduction to a group of friends in very different stages of their relationships. Dave (Vaughn) and Ronnie (Malin Akerman) are a happily married couple with two kids; Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) are a pair of uptight perfectionists having trouble conceiving; Joey (Favreau) and Lucy (Kristen Davis) are proud parents who have since lost the spark in their marriage; and the recently divorced Shane (Faizon Love) has just started dating a 20-year-old party girl named Trudy (Kali Hawk). When Jason and Cynthia announce that they’re contemplating divorce, however, they convince their friends to join them on a couples retreat to Bora-Bora at the Eden Resort. They all believe they’re going on a fun-filled tropical getaway, but when they discover that the couples skill building classes are mandatory, the problems in all four relationships begin to emerge.
Unfortunately, the setup isn’t so much funny as it is mildly depressing. There’s so much psychobabble scattered through the film that it drains a lot of the comedic energy that guys like Vaughn, Favreau and Bateman bring to the project. It’s like watching “The Break-Up” all over again, but with four couples suffering a lack of communication skills instead of just one. In fact, the therapy scenes are probably the most frustrating to watch because none of the principal actors look like they’re having any fun. The supporting cast, on the other hand, has a blast playing the resort’s staff. Jean Reno dives right into his role as the quirky director, while Peter Serafinowicz and Carlos Ponce deliver hilarious turns as the pompous maître d’ and sex-fueled yoga instructor, respectively.
One of the things “Couples Retreat” does do well is balance the screen time between its many actors. Some might even say that it does it too well, as director Peter Billingsley’s insistence on cutting back and forth between all four couples as they essentially experience the same progress in their relationships begins to feel monotonous towards the end. Still, while each couple gets equal time to shine, some characters are simply more interesting than others. The women, in particular, come off as little more than two-dimensional accessories to their male counterparts, while Vaughn and Favreau get most of the best lines because, well, they co-wrote the script.
“Couples Retreat” may fall a little flat in the comedy department, but it’s hard to blame anyone involved. After all, if you were offered the chance to go to a beautiful island and hang out with some of your closest friends for a few months (and get paid for it), you wouldn’t say no either. The film may not be as funny as expected, but it’s still a fairly entertaining look at the give and take world of marriage that most adults will be able to relate to. Consider it discounted couples therapy and just bill your insurance company.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
The single-disc release of “Couples Retreat” has all the special features you’d expect to find on a typical Blu-ray, but they’re just as tame as the movie itself. The video commentary with director Peter Billingsley and star/co-writer Vince Vaughn is pretty mundane, while the nearly 20 minutes of deleted footage doesn't offer a single highlight. Rounding out the disc is an alternate ending, a featurette on filming in Bora Bora, and a behind-the-scenes look at the cast's preparation for the yoga sequence.