REVIEW: Couples Retreat

28 11 2009

Hollywood loves combo deals.  A recent favorite is the probing exposé of a relationship mixed with comedy.  “Couples Retreat” follows this recipe, but there is only a fair amount of laughter added to offset watching long sessions of couples therapy.  Surprisingly, the script (written by stars Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau) captures a wide scope of realistic relationships, perhaps some of the best in comedy of this type.  However, the writing is also the film’s weakness as it plays like a rerun due to its devotion to the typical “relationship movie” formula.  You come to expect some master plan behind all the exercises that pull the couples apart (while subtly bringing them together), but the movie amounts to little more than just a string of events.

The married-with-kids couple whose relationship has become like a job (Vince Vaughn and Malin Akerman).  The high-school couple who has been together way too long (Jon Favreau and Kristin Davis).  The anal couple who is frustrated because everything doesn’t go according to their perfect plan (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell).  The older man-younger woman couple that always manages to raise some eyebrows (Faizon Love and Kali Hawk).  Chances are, you know at least one of these couples.  “Couples Retreat” dwells largely on the familiarity of its characters to propel the more serious side of the movie.  At the same time, it allows the strengths of the actors to provide some comic relief.  Vince Vaughn does a few trademark trite spiels; Jon Favreau gets plenty of moments to be curmudgeonly; Jason Bateman plays average Joe with a tinge of neurosis.

“Couples Retreat” doesn’t really succeed as a comedy, but it does manage to portray some very realistic relationships with very real problems.  As the directorial debut of Peter Billingsley (Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” – you know, the one they play all Christmas on TBS), it’s not such a bad place to start, but it definitely leaves something to be desired.  We’ve seen all the stars in this movie do better, and it isn’t too far out of line to request more.  But for what it’s worth, this will provide you some amusement yet fail to deliver the belly-laughs we have come to expect from actors like Vaughn, Favreau, and Bateman.  B- /

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