(2009)2.5Cammila CollarWith a dream cast full of comedy heavyweights, Couples Retreat seems brimming with potential. But given those high hopes, the results are disappointingly flat. It's not the biggest disaster in cinematic history and it certainly does have its fair share of serious laughs, but a lot of stuff in this movie just isn't that funny -- and even the funny stuff tends to drag on way longer than the laughs do. Also, it says a lot about a film when it can't be saved by Vince Vaughn fending off a shark attack, or Kristen Bell in a bikini.
The premise concerns a group of couples, all trudging through their thirties, and the frantic web of child rearing and home ownership that go with the territory. But when one pair in the clique, Jason and Cynthia (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell), reveal that their fertility issues have brought them to the brink of divorce, all the other seemingly happy twosomes find themselves guilted into following their pals to a weeklong marriage workshop held at an exclusive island resort. They agree to this in order to score a half-price group rate, and on the premise that all the counseling and team-building exercises are optional -- which, of course, they are not -- and soon, everybody's engaging in embarrassing activities under the guidance of the floofy French relationship doctor who runs the place (Jean Reno), and getting dry humped by a muscular yoga instructor.
It almost goes without saying that the players here are leaps and bounds above the material. Jon Favreau and Kristin Davis totally capture the essence of those married friends we all have who talk in logistical circles, always trying to trick you into condoning some kind of epic infidelity. And Malin Akerman holds her own impressively next to Vaughn, who could easily eclipse just about anybody out of a scene just by exasperatedly reading the phone book. But even with pros like Bateman, Bell, and comedian Faizon Love rounding out the cast, nobody can elevate the crappy writing or hackneyed direction enough to make the film more than passable. If you can tune out the moments when scenes stretch out so long that things go from funny to excruciating, it might be good for a few laughs. Otherwise, you're best advised to beat a hasty retreat as far from this island paradise as possible.
Their relationship in danger of dissipating, a couple racing to salvage their marriage invites three other couples to join them at a tropical island resort. Upon arriving at the island paradise to enjoy some carefree fun in the sun, the other couples are disturbed to discover that participation in therapy sessions is mandatory if they hope to remain at the resort. Peter Bilingsley directs a comedy penned by Jon Favreau, produced by Vince Vaughn, and pairing the two Made collaborators onscreen with co-stars Jason Bateman and Faizon Love.