Couples Retreat is the latest comedic debacle for the once-funny Vince Vaughn, and at this point we’re a bit beyond worried. By my count, Vaughn hasn’t made a funny, or even particularly good (with the exception of his brief appearance in 2007’s Into the Wild), movie since 2005’s Wedding Crashers. The man has picked poor projects over the past four years, but here he is credited as a writer along with best buddy and co-star Jon Favreau. They undoubtedly got a killer vacation to Tahiti out of this while we, the audience, are stuck with what appear to be improvised scenes and shameless product plugs.
The film tells the story of four couples, three of whom believe they are in quality relationships. The unhappy couple is Jason (Bateman) and Cynthia (Bell). Cynthia’s inability to get pregnant has them questioning their whole relationship. The proposed solution: travel to an island called Eden where counselors and therapists will solve all of your relationship problems. Jason and Cynthia, however, cannot afford the trip on their own so they convince the other three couples (Vaughn and Akerman, Favreau and Kristin Davis, and Love and Kali Hawk) to take the trip with them at a discounted group rate. The catch? The therapy sessions are mandatory.
The picture starts out strong enough but fizzles by the middle of the second act. This is not a premise without possibilities, but Vaughn and the writing team don’t seem to be trying hard, if at all. A well-advertised sequence in which Vaughn is circled by sharks ends with a thud, the erratic screenplay changes tones on a dime without any consideration for its characters, and very few of said characters are even relatable on any level. The obligatory ending is just what you’d expect, and it’s a pain getting there.
The director here is Peter Billingsley, best known to most of the world as Ralphie from A Christmas Story. I’m inclined to cut the guy some slack as he starred in the greatest Christmas movie ever made, but his lack of directorial experience really shows. Twenty minutes could have easily been chopped off the run time and, like Vaughn and the rest of the cast, he seems content with having his actors frolic in scenic locales in the hopes that something funny comes out of it.
The lone bright spot comes in the form of a youngster named Colin Baiocchi. He plays Vaughn’s youngest son and gets more laughs in his sub-five minutes of screen time than the rest of the cast in the other 103 minutes. This is a truly disappointing effort from a team of comedians who are clearly capable of better. There’s only one winner in this film, and it’s Applebee’s. Take my word for it and watch some Travel Channel instead.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 108 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 on appeal for sexual content and language.
Theatrical Release: October 9, 2009
Directed by: Peter Billingsley
Written by: Jon Favreau & Vince Vaughn & Dana Fox.
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Faizon Love, Jon Favreau, Malin Akerman