Screenwriters: Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Dana Fox
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Faizon Love, Malin Akerman, Kristin Davis, Kristen Bell, Peter Serafinowicz (interview)
Running Time: 110mins
Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau do couples therapy in the sun, though not with each other. That said, watching Couples Retreat, it does feel as though these two old friends (who caused a sensation in Swingers back in 1996) might benefit from some time apart. Last year's Four Christmases saw them fail to recapture that old magic, perhaps prompting their decision to write and produce this script. And still, it fails to showcase the strengths of either actor. Vaughn seems restrained and uninterested, Favreau too silly and the rest of the cast look permanently dazed with sunstroke.
Jason Bateman, who was a brilliant straight-man in underrated sitcom Arrested Development, is completely wasted in the role of, uh, Jason, a merely uptight character who treats the gradual breakdown of his marriage as a challenge to his organisational skills. He invites the rest of his coupled-up friends to a Powerpoint presentation to deliver the bad news along with his equally rigid wife Cynthia (played by Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Kristen Bell) then begs them to chip in on a group deal to a luxury resort that specialises in couples therapy. It's hardly a credible set up and it becomes even less convincing after they've arrived at the Eden resort.
There is one bright spot in the shape of British funnyman Peter Serafinowicz playing the resort host with the pseudo-Zen calm of a serial killer. As far as the happy-go-lucky Dave (Vaughn) is concerned, he's a wet blanket who threatens to put a dampener on his plans to indulge in a lot of sun, sea and the other thing with wife Ronnie (Malin Akerman). Meanwhile, pal Joey (Favreau) is focussed on escaping to the other side of the resort which caters to the swinging singles market. He regrets marrying his school sweetheart Lucy (Kristin Davis of Sex And The City), but she isn't so devoted to him either. One of the more tired gags sees her lusting after their hunky yoga instructor (Carlos Ponce) who struts around semi-naked and talks in an indecipherable accent; essentially, ripping off Hank Azaria in Along Came Polly.
Rounding out the cast, in more ways than one, is comedian Faizon Love who is the butt of many a fat joke as divorcee Shane. He too drops his keks for a cheap laugh as he tries to convince his twenty-year-old lover (Kali Hawk) that he's carefree and energetic. Sadly, instead of probing these relationship problems in a way that's insightful and funny, the script (directed by actor Peter Billingsley) presents us with crude jokes slotted between boring talk about feelings. The result is a film that is both maddeningly predicable yet annoyingly random. Favreau's character, more than anyone else, veers into American Pie territory with cringe-worthy effect and Vaughn's big moment sees him flounder amongst baby sharks without a decent punch-line. Even when he seems to go off the page, the dialogue has no snap at all.
Exactly why Jean Reno signed up for this film is as much a mystery as the platitudes dispensed by his moody relationship guru. The women could have been played by blow-up dolls since they have no substance at all (just a lot of air between the ears), and because none of the characters are believable, the relationships don't feel authentic either. That means the gags don't spring naturally from the situation and the question of whether the couples stay together or not feels as pressing as a hot rock massage. In the end, it's the child actor playing Vaughn's son (Gattlin Griffith) who gets the biggest laugh (albeit with a mandatory toilet gag). The rest of the film is entertainment on a par with sitting through your neighbours' holiday slideshow.
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