Entries Comments

Couples Retreat Your Typical Mass-Approved, Processed Comedy

Couples Retreat
Directed by Peter Billingsley
Written by Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, and Dana Fox
Universal, 2009

You might not know it, but Peter Billingsley, best known as Ralphie from A Christmas Story, has been producing Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn productions since 2001, with the film Made and the Favreau talk show Dinner for Five.  Following that was Elf, Zathura, The Break-Up, The Wild-West Comedy Show, Iron Man, and Four Christmases, with Billingsley also appearing in four films.  Now, they get together for a film that is curiously without bite considering the talent involved, and who knows, it could be because of your typical studio meddling.

In Billingsley’s feature debut, four couples go to a remote paradise in Bora Bora called “Eden.”  One couple, Cynthia (Kristin Bell) and Jason (Jason Bateman) want to go for the couple-building exercises that Eden offers because they are headed for a sure divorce, but needs the other three couples so that they can get a discounted rate, and sell them on the idea that they will be having fun in the sun and won’t have to do any of the couple-building activities.  They are, of course, wrong, but all three need it.  One couple, Joey (Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis) are merely staying together until their high school senior goes to college.  The seemingly happy couple, Dave (Vaughn) and Ronnie (Malin Ackerman), have two kids and an apparent dream marriage, but have let a lot of unhappiness slide by to “get through.”  Another couple is Shane (Faizon Love) and Trudy (Kali Hawk).  Shane is rebounding from his wife who divorced him and has taken someone who is far too young and does things he pretends to be into for the sake of a relationship.

They are told by their island director Stanley (Peter Sarafinowicz) that if they don’t want to do the couples building, they can just be refunded their money and go on their merry way back.  This is made even tougher by the fact that their section of paradise is called “Eden West,” while a more fun, unreachable singles island is across the water and is known as “Eden East.”  The couples building starts at 6 AM with a pretentious Frenchman named Marcel (Jean Reno) who has studied all of the philosophies of the world (including Art of War) and have combined them all into one.  The activities, of course, are ridiculous and serve no real purpose.  Meanwhile they also partake in couples therapy (some known faces that make appearances as therapists are John Michael Higgins and Ken Jeong) and yoga from an outrageous overtly sexual muscle-bound instructor Salvadore (Carlos Ponce).

This movie is a little too obviously processed, probably went through the test audience wringer, and packaged for the masses.  One of the noticeable omissions from the trailer is the scene where Joey and Lucy talk about their innocent day, where the reality is that they’ve been sexing other people.  The scene is pretty funny, but I’m sure it was cut because of the perception that Joey and Lucy are completely unlikable because they’ve cheated on each other.  The ending of this flick is entirely too pat, where complex problems are solved by talking it out.  The most damaged of the couples somehow heal in one fell swoop and it comes off disingenuous.

But is it funny?  Well, it has some moments, but nothing particularly laugh-out-loud.  Once again, Vince Vaughn can usually garner laughs by going on some tangent as he did so brilliantly in Swingers 13 years ago.  But other than that, you’ll get a couple of chuckles.  The yoga guru Salvatore will probably get quite a few laughs himself.  It’s not terrible by any means, it’s just not what you would hope with all the talent involved.

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.