Let’s be frank right from the start: Couples Retreat is the kind of movie you can appreciate and enjoy when you’re sitting in the drive-thru at McDonald’s wondering what one dollar Redbox rental will go nicely with your Double Quarter Pounder, pound of fries and cattle trough-sized soda. It’s not a terrible show and has a few funny bits, but its best digested with no expectations, and also while inebriated with sugar and cholesterol.
The tragedy of Couples Retreat is the cast carries some legitimate comedic weight, the kind of heft that makes me shake my finger and scold them for a half-assed job. I mean, you’ve got Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers), Jason Bateman (Juno) and John Favreau (I Love You, Man), all fan favorites, but all three have kind of run their course and are going the way of Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell. Sure, they’re funny, but we’ve been-there-done-that many, many times and sadly it’s just not as laugh-worthy as it was the first go-around.
In Couples Retreat, Vaughn, Favreau and Bateman play three friends – Dave, Joey and Jason – who, along with another pal, Shane (Faizon Love), get lured into taking a couples “vacation” to an island resort called Eden West. Jason and his wife Cynthia (Kristen Bell) have been unable to conceive a baby and the stress has pushed their marriage to the brink of divorce. The friends, wanting to support Jason and Cynthia, come along, hoping to get some R&R in the process. However, when they get to the island they discover they are signed up for days of couple’s skill building sessions and therapy. And that’s just about where the movie runs out of gas.
My biggest beef is with Vaughn, as his shtick seems the stalest. We don’t have to tolerate too much of Favreau because he’s been behind the director’s lens (Iron Man) lately and when he steps in front of the camera it’s in a supporting role, which he’s extremely adept at doing. Bateman, on the other hand, could face some comic moldiness in the future, as he seems to bring his trademark dead-pan intellectual wit and sarcasm to every movie he’s in and predictability does not spell excitement or laughs as his resume grows larger.
Again, there are bits and pieces of humor scattered throughout the first 40 minutes of Couples Retreat. Our introductions to the characters and their wives (Malin Ackerman and Kristin Davis play Vaughn and Favreau’s spouses) makes for some humorous dialogue about “sexting,” home improvement and the deluge of social media in our lives, as well as other crises middle-aged men and women face (like “ball cancer”). And two scenes at the island are chuckle-worthy, one with a horny Yoga instructor and another where the couples are instructed to stand on the beach in their skivvies. After that, the movie doesn’t know where to go, rushing to wrap tidily and quickly and in the process becomes just another overdone comedic cliché.