What do you get when you bring together a huge cast, an overly invested writing team and an inexperienced director? A failed comedy. Were it not for the non-stop hilarity roll that is Vince Vaughn, “Couples Retreat” would have been a straight-up misery trip.
When perfectionists Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) decide to work on their marriage, they string along their other espoused friends (Vaughn, Malin Akerman and company) to a couples resort. Little do they know that the island getaway requires therapy for all of them, and from there, the problems are stirred up and hilarity is intended to ensue.
Unfortunately for the flop, the writing isn’t quick-witted enough, and the ensemble seems to depend more on lame sex jokes than actual humor. When you leave the theater with nothing but an image of everyone in a bathing suit, something is very, very wrong.
Especially awful was the younger girlfriend of Faizon Love’s character (Kali Hawk). Her over-the-top depiction of a 20-year-old with a y’all accent looking to party was cringe-inducing, and when her character disappears for a portion of the film, you can’t help but be relieved.
Luckily, the couple therapists of the film were truly entertaining, specifically John Michael Higgins (“Best in Show”) and Ken Jeong (“Knocked Up”). Despite their lack of screen time, they emanated above the rest with their obvious comedic skills.
One wonders how an otherwise great cast was assigned to this poor feature, but with Vaughn and Jon Favreau at the screenwriting table, it’s easy to think there could have been something there. Sadly, their collaborative efforts failed and were left at the directorial whim of Peter Billingsley, who is known better for his role as Ralphie Parker in “A Christmas Story” than as a director.
Perhaps the cleverest scene in the whole movie, the showdown between Vaughn’s character and his retreat advisor Stanley, actually focuses more on a videogame than any of the characters. It’s unfortunate when the highlight of a reel is Rock Band.
Do real people have problems like the ones in “Couples Retreat”? Yes. Does it help the film? Not really. The execution of the relationships in this movie aren’t even sincere enough to warrant the “aw” factor like so many other comedies rely on doing these days.
Sadly predictable and unbearably disappointing, “Couples Retreat” leaves much to be desired.