John Johnson / McClatchy Tribune
Exquisite tropical locales and beautiful, bikini-clad women can’t rescue “Couples Retreat” from mediocrity.
Black and white, vintage footage of couples throughout history opens up the movie “Couples Retreat.” As the montage progresses the images slowly become colored and display more modern looking husbands and wives, ending with the four couples of the film.
Unfortunately, this is as interesting as the movie gets.
From the start, it’s easy to see each of the four couples have their own set of problems.
Dave, played by Vince Vaughn, tends to neglect his wife, Ronnie (Malin Akerman), after working long hours selling Guitar Hero. Shane (Faizon Love) is recently divorced, spending his time and money on a much younger girlfriend. Joey and Lucy (Jon Favreau, Kristin Davis) love each other until their daughter leaves the room. Jason and Cynthia, played by Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell, are contemplating a divorce and convince the rest of the group to attend the “Eden East” resort in Bora Bora, in hopes of restoring their relationships.
Promised a vacation full of Jet Skis and snorkeling, the couples are irritated to find the resort’s itinerary of 6 a.m. wake-up calls and therapy sessions is mandatory. Couples Skill Building, a farcical assignment mandated by the resort, is composed of undressing in front of each other at the urging of a middle-aged French man, clothed only in a Speedo and a rattail haircut.
The main obstacle of the film, written in part by Vaughn and Favreau, is its narrow portrayal of friendship. The characters of Dave and Joey don’t act like authentic friends, but merely as a set of ears for one another to complain to. Conversations circle around repetitive topics of marital discontent or spousal anger, but rarely break the surface of what the real issues are.
Despite the paradise these couples are in, no one can stop griping long enough to enjoy the view. Gourmet meals, hot tubs with views of the ocean and the capacity to see fish through windows in the hotel room floors are not enough to satisfy these people. From the perspective of the viewer, the arguing and groaning doesn’t read as funny so much as self-indulgent.
Overall, very little of “Couples Retreat” is original. Most of the jokes and punch lines are stale, expected and mildly repulsive. Of course the male yoga instructor with supermodel looks, big muscles and a tiny swimsuit is fond of inappropriate touching. Obviously the sleaziest guy of the group is going to (not so) hysterically sexually harass the young, attractive masseuse. Everything from the ball jokes and potty humor to the Guitar Hero showdown is infantile.
The characters and storylines of “Couples Retreat” are more annoying than intriguing. Constant bickering and artificial friendships weigh down the almost two-hour movie. In the end, the only thing worth paying for in the film is the beauty of Mother Nature.