Peter Billingsley (yep, little Ralphie from A CHRISTMAS STORY) directs this collection of comic actors taking a vacation to Bora Bora while presenting a story written by Vince Vaughn about relationships. You’ll remember the last time Vaughn took a stab at writing about such things resulted in 2006’s THE BREAKUP, an hour and forty-five minutes of shouting between Vaughn and Aniston, with a few chuckles in between. COUPLES RETREAT is similar in that the laughs are sacrificed most times to show the different problems in each of the four individual relationships. There are a couple good laughs toward the end…just not enough to warrant the price of admission, and definitely disappointing considering the comedic star power the flick brings to the table.
Vaughn plays Dave of the couple Dave and Ronnie (Malin Ackerman, not given many opportunities for laughs), who struggle keeping the magic alive while balancing work and family. Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell (who did so well in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL) play a highly analytical couple trying to conceive with little success. Jon Favreau and Kristin Davis are actually pretty good at parenting, but they’re only staying together until their daughter gets out of the house. And Faizon Love has already lost his wife and is overcompensating with a twenty year old played by Kali Hawk and their dynamic is good for most of the early laughs.
Bateman and Bell put together a Powerpoint presentation – apparently that’s their thing – showing the couples an island resort called Eden providing them all with the welcome reprieve their busy lives could use. The catch: mandatory couples counseling, which they all could use, but only one couple really wants. The resort is run pretty forcefully by Sctanley (Peter Serafinowicz) and Monsieur Marcel (Jean Reno), with activities and the counseling sessions, though thankfully we finally have the answer to that question we’ve asked since 1994: What would LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL look like in a Speedo?
The problem with the premise is the formulaic nature with which it is handled, but even a formula is acceptable if, in a comedy, you sprinkle funny moments throughout the whole movie. Vaughn gets some funny lines, as does Favreau and Kristin Davis (surprising, as I never liked her as Charlotte in “Sex in the City” – yeah, I watched it, and the movie…) but Bateman is used very little which is another bummer since his failure in EXTRACT and Love mostly just earns our sympathy rather than laughter. In this case, the movie couldn’t sustain the formula and the whole film seemed a little contrived. This was especially true in the end, when unbelievably, everything turned out fine for Faizon Love. But the points the film does earn it earns through Vaughn’s delivery of his dialogue and good riffs involving Guitar Hero and Applebee’s, which frankly didn’t make me any happier I’d paid to see the flick, but rather just made me want to stop by Applebee’s and then head home and play some Guitar Hero.