Get an Early Checkout At 'Couples Retreat'
By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 9, 2009
The characters in the utterly unimaginative "Couples Retreat" live in a world of marital cliches. The guys, including Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, bond over beer in the living room while their wives sit in the kitchen with glasses of chardonnay. They're all worried about keeping the spark alive after years of togetherness. So they escape to Eden Resort, an all-inclusive tropical getaway designed to revitalize run-down marriages.
As the turquoise water laps in the background, they do couples therapy and couples yoga. The latter allows a beefy instructor to put the wives in compromising positions, thereby challenging the husbands' masculinity. This scene goes for safe, easy, sexist laughs. As does the rest of the movie.
Vaughn under duress is one of Hollywood's great shticks, but in this movie he's on autopilot as a good father with no hangups and a deferential wife (Malin Akerman). Favreau plays the typical Vaughn part instead, going off on verbal sprees at the slightest provocation by his wife, played by the pert, passable Kristin Davis. Rounding out the troupe are Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell as the uptight couple and Faizon Love and Kali Hawk as the black couple (which is all the movie allows them to be).
Watching these affable actors ham it up in French Polynesia seems like the perfect brain vacation, but "Couples Retreat" coasts on comic fumes, relying on colloquialisms, foreign accents, racial stereotypes, lemon sharks, Speedos and inopportune erections to supply the funny. Any one of these things might work in a comedy that was less contrived.
The movie requires the four couples to behave unnaturally in order to stoke conflict. People in the real world don't proclaim the death of their marriage and then fully reconcile in the span of 20 seconds, as they do here. Why couldn't "Couples Retreat" have been lighthearted and zany throughout, instead of trying to push across a message about picket-fence monogamy?
It's a scam. It's an excuse for Vaughn and company to kick back in Bora Bora, cobble together subpar entertainment and rake in the dough because we've been conditioned to expect a good time from them. If you want a good comedy about rocky relationships that's set in a tropical resort and co-stars Kristen Bell, rent "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."
Couples Retreat (90 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, crude humor and some drug references.