By Dave Campbell | October 8, 2009
Director: Peter Billingsley
Writer(s): Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Dana Fox
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Faizon Love, Kristen Bell, Malin Akerman, Kristin Davis, Kali Hawk, Tasha Smith, Peter Serafinowicz, Jean Reno
Couples Retreat follows the story of four couples in a circle of friends. We start off with video game sales director Dave (Vince Vaughn) and kitchen tile shopping housewife Ronnie (Malin Akerman), an average couple with two young boys. Our next couple, Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis) have been married since they became pregnant in high school, and now have become distant and uninvolved with one another. Shane (Faizon Love) aka the token African-American friend, has recently divorced and is now involved with a 20-year-old retail employee named Trudy (Kali Hawk) who calls him “Daddy”, as in Sugar Daddy. Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell), are the tightly wound, uber organized, PowerPoint couple who are questioning their marriage after being unsuccessful at creating a baby for the last year.
Because of this tension in their marriage, Jason and Cynthia convince the other couples in joining them for a group rate trip to Eden Resort in Bora Bora for loads of paradise fun and minimal couples skill-building courses. When they arrive, they soon discover that it’s the other way around and in order to keep the group rate discount, everyone must complete all of the relationship building activities developed by resort creator Marcel (Jean Reno). They must also attend couple therapy sessions with quirky therapists (John Michael Higgins and Ken Jeong) to fulfill their trip obligations. The rest of the couples soon realize that even though the relationship building was originally for Jason and Cynthia, they are all in need of improving their own relationships.
Directed by Peter Billingsley (yes that Peter Billingsley – Ralphie from A Christmas Story), Couples Retreat is his first major motion picture, and his second time behind the camera calling the shots since his directorial debut in 1994 with the Sci-fi short film, The Sacred Fire. Couples Retreat will probably delight the fans of films like Meet the Fockers, while leaving the rest of us feeling let down. The problem with this film is that everything is very contrived and predictable. Very little to no background is established in the relationship of how these couples are connected and how they became such close friends. It’s mildly funny and cute at times, but relies on hanging on to the repetitiveness of the same few jokes rather than moving on too new ones.
As much as I love all of the actors in Couples Retreat, stereotypes run rampant and I can’t help but feel that I was conned into watching something that I have already seen a thousand times over in relationship comedies. I also couldn’t help but notice that many ideas and themes in the film were taken from the comedy Along Came Polly. Everything was shot beautifully due to the backdrop location of Bora Bora, and the actors did share some decent chemistry in their respective characters, but the constant abrupt and jagged edits forced odd transitions in the film. In the end Couples Retreat is disposable weekend theater filler and is as forgettable as any meal you’ve ever had at Applebee’s, which is the topic of an ongoing joke that comes off as a very absurd product placement ad.