Couples Retreat Peter Billingsley
Published Oct 08, 2009Before Jon Favreau resurrected Robert Downey Jr.'s career and Vince Vaughn became a Frat Pack hero, the two friends appeared together in indie opus Swingers. Written by Favreau, the dapper classic featured a group of 20somethings eloquently spewing witty repartee and wearing vintage shirts. All grown up, when Vaughn and Favreau get together these days it's for bloated, underwhelming, light comedies (see The Break-Up and Four Christmases).
Couple Retreat's premise is wafer thin: a coterie of eponymous couples ― the happy one (Vaughn and Malin Akerman), the age-disparate one (Faizon Love and Kali Hawk), the unfaithful one (Favreau and Kristin Davis) and the dorky one (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell) ― endure two weeks at a couples-counseling resort in Bora-Bora.
Populated with archetypes and sight gags, Couples Retreat relies too heavily on sitcom-style comedy, including prepubescent public urination, homoerotic yoga and a fat naked guy. Co-written by Favreau and Vaughn (along with Dana Fox), the two manage to wring laughs from their verbal sparring matches and the latter's motor-mouth shtick (especially when surrounded by sharks), but no exchange rivals anything in Swingers, or even Made, for sharpness.
Encumbered by clichés and overpopulation, the central cast have little space to stretch their legs, though Akerman and Hawk turn in solid performances in particularly thankless roles. Conversely, director Peter Billingsley (aka Ralphie from A Christmas Story) gives Jean Reno, Carlos Ponce and Spaced's Peter Serafinowicz too much room to roam, letting them go way over the top and muddy the tone.
Similarly, Billingsley struggles with pacing, letting the first act tarry too long in a midwestern winter when Bora-Bora awaits. Once there, the tempo continues to drag but the gorgeous mise-en-scène largely compensates.
Unlike the other semi-recent tropical anti-romance comedy (it's a genre), the hilarious and heartfelt Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Couples Retreat is entirely devoid of insight. Regardless, it is pretty to look at, inoffensive (save for the extended Rock Band advertisement) and ultimately palatable thanks to the affable cast. (Universal)