*** (out of 5)
October 9, 2009
Vince Vaughn as DAVE
Jason Bateman as JASON
Faizon Love as SHANE
Jon Favreau as JOEY
Malin Akerman as RONNIE
Kristen Bell as CYNTHIA
Kristin Davis as LUCY
Kali Hawk as TRUDY
Directed by: Peter Billingsley
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Sometimes actors should stretch and make an effort to do something different with their careers. And sometimes they should acknowledge their strengths and do exactly what their audience expects from them. When it comes to the film “Couples Retreat,” it’s not a bad thing that nobody stretches.
“Couples Retreat” tells the story of four different couples facing their own challenges in their relationships. They all reluctantly agree to go on a getaway vacation to a tropical location where they think they’re in for some fun in the sun. Unfortunately, they’re also required to go through a barrage of bizarre couples therapy sessions. Over the course of the therapy, they learn to rediscover each other and try to make their relationships work.
I suppose if “The Love Boat” were still on the air, this is what it might have evolved into. There’s not a whole lot of originality to the story, and we’ve seen many of the relationship devices used before. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t work. They’re just cliche. So don’t expect anything terribly unique or different.
The real strength of this film is its cast, which is quite phenomenal, really. The whole isn’t as good as the sum of its parts, but the whole does work to a degree. Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman and Faizon Love all play versions of their stock characters we’ve seen many times before. As I said, they don’t stretch, but they are so good at playing these stock characters that it still comes off as funny.
Playing against these guys are Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis, Malin Akerman and Kali Hawk. With the exception of Hawk, who is a relative unknown to mainstream audiences, the rest of the ladies play relatively typical roles. But like their male counterparts, they play them well. (And it doesn’t help that we get to see the ladies in various stages of undress throughout the film. I’ll admit that’s something I notice.)
Additional performances that stand out include Jean Reno as the wacky relationship guru leading the retreat, as well as John Michael Higgins and Ken Jeong as two of the problematic therapists.
“Couples Retreat” works as a date movie in the sense that anyone in a long-standing relationship should find something to relate to, if you’ll pardon the pun. In this sense, it’s a Tyler Perry movie for the rest of America, without so much melodrama. There are plenty of cheap jokes and deliberate button-pushing, but I can’t say I didn’t laugh.
Of course, if you’ve watched the trailers of the film, you’ll notice certain things have been removed, namely the rampant infidelity of Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis). I imagine that didn’t test well, and it does make their storylines a little confusing in the final cut. However, the main story belongs to Vince Vaughn and Malin Akerman, which shoulders more weight of the plot.
The only real sticking point I had with this movie was the unapologetic product placement. From Guitar Hero to Applebee’s, corporate sponsorship is all over this movie like decals on a NASCAR body. But if you can look past this, you should get a few chuckles from “Couples Retreat.”