Couples Retreat **
Just five years ago (oh my, hasn’t time flown by) Vince Vaughn was being hailed by both film critics and moviegoers alike as the next big thing in comedy with films like Dodgeball and Wedding Crashers being both critical and commercial successes, and suggesting that Vaughn may actually be one of those comic talents who endures the test of time. Now, however, this no longer seems to be the case. While he continues to have appeal with moviegoers, many of his recent films being box office hits, with mediocre efforts such as The Break-Up and Four Christmases the quality of his films has diminished greatly. When this critic first heard about Vaughn’s latest effort Couples Retreat, however, I thought that this may well be the film to end a dry spell for the star. After all, it reunites him with long time collaborating partner Jon Favreau, boasts an impressive cast and at its core has a concept with great comic potential. Sadly, any hope that this may be a return to form disappeared after seeing the mediocre trailer and with its release in the states last weekend (where it was a commercial success I might note) generating poor reviews and poor word of mouth I was at least prepared for a film that is another let down for its star.
When couple Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) announce that they’re heading to a tropical resort (“Disneyland for adults”) in order to try and save their failing marriage, their friends Dave (Vince Vaughn) and Ronnie (Malin Akerman), Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis), and Shane (Faizon Love) and Trudy (Kali Hawk) are more than happy to go along for the jet-skiing, spa and frolics in the surf. But when they arrive at Eden Resort, run by the eccentric Marcel (Jean Reno) and manager Sctanley (Peter Serafinowicz), it becomes clear that this is no ordinary island getaway. As part of the group deal they’ve secured, each of the couples is obliged to take part in the resort’s rigorous, and sometimes unorthodox, counselling itinerary, including couple skill building, yoga sessions and uncomfortable bouts on the therapist’s couch. It may not be the holiday they expected, but maybe they will discover the true meaning of their relationships…
Couples Retreat is sadly another addition to a growing list of mediocre comedies starring who Vince Vaughn, but the fault for this does not entirely at his feet. A key reason for the disappointment of this film is that while the film has a cast that indeed seems impressive it doesn’t really amount to all that much in practice. While the couplings do actually seem pretty believable – Dave and Ronnie being a fairly typical couple whose busy work and family lives have come at the expense of romance, Jason and Cynthia being perfectly organised in their lives and being suffocated by a lack of spontaneity, Joey and Lucy’s relationship falling apart due to a lack of passion and divorcee Shane trying to move on with his life by attempting a relationship with a 20 year old who is only interested in partying – when it comes to bringing on the funny the key cast members are little more than competent, each only managing to create a few laughs, despite all being pretty game for the various situations that they are thrust into. (This, of course, is somewhat subjective, though, and the amount of laughs will depend on personal taste in comedy – if you like crude innuendos revolving around sexual situations and nudity then you will no doubt get much more enjoyment out of the film than me. It is also clear that much of the humour is aimed at Americans.) Any such failings though can be attributed as much to the material they are given to work with though as the actors themselves. Many of the gags are rather tired and predictable and the storyline isn’t really of much note, apparently existing for the purposes of creating gags rather than gags being built around a genuinely decent plot. This isn’t to say that there isn’t some sweetness to the film, though, particularly when the typical happy ending comes along, but for the most part much seems to be sacrificed for cheap gags that often aren’t even that funny. Nonetheless, there are a few scenes that do raise some giggles and also a couple of genuinely funny performances in the film, albeit from actors in smaller roles. These are from Jean Reno and Peter Serafinowicz who are both pretty amusing and do provide this film with some genuinely funny scenes. It’s a shame that their roles aren’t bigger as they really steal the show in the scenes in which they do appear. Unfortunately, other than this, the only thing that really stands out in the film is the tropical location used for filming which is a beautiful and exotic setting that ensures that the film’s events at least occur against a truly stunning backdrop. Overall, Couples Retreat is a comedy that fails to deliver enough laughs to really make it worth handing over your hard earned money to see. It does have its moments and some people may find it much funnier than I did but in my opinion this is one retreat that really isn’t that worth your time.
Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)
© BRWC 2010.
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