On paper, Couples Retreat shapes up to be pretty much the perfect comedy. Written by and starring Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, backed up in front of the camera by Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Malin Akerman, Kristin Davis, Faizon Love and Jean Reno, directed by long time Favreau collaborator Peter Billingsley and set on a tropical island resort, ripe for comedy, there’s little you would have change when the film started production.
About four couples who go on vacation to the dreamy holiday hotspot Eden, one to repair their relationship, the other three merely to unwind and have a good time, everything’s thrown up in the air when the group find out they’ve all been signed up for mandatory therapy sessions and 6am bonding classes. Right from the outset the island activities appear to be doing more harm than good, but threatening with being set home if they don’t comply with guru Marcel’s (Reno) tailor-made itinerary, the couples tough it out and hope the sessions will bring them all closer together by the end of the holiday.
Though Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Vince Vaughn and John Favreau all together on screen, given the talent on offer, Couples Retreat is nowhere near as funny as it should be. The characters would have you believe they all have their own personality and individual quirks, as individuals and couples, but they’re all fairly bland and this rubs off onto the comedy. You can easily count the laughs on one hand and it won’t really trouble your third or fourth finger. The script feels lazy and there’s no build-up or effort to the set-ups, just one liners thrown at the screen time and again, all with no pay off.
Couples Retreat marks another film in Vaughn’s change of direction from Brat Pack comedies to a recent spate of generic rom-coms, and no-one will deny he is much better putting his often hilarious sense timing to better use in more edgy and ambitious work.
Though on a whole the rest of the cast do amicable if nothing extraordinary jobs, Kristen Davis falls foul to the Jennifer Aniston situation. Like Aniston, Davis doesn’t have the charisma for the big screen and is much better saving her talents for TV.
While the plot could have done with a lot more work, in terms of a mindless easy watch, there is some entertainment to be had from Couples Retreat, but from a production budget of $70m, that still isn’t good enough. Jean Reno’s role is pleasing, if generic and it’s left to the yoga instructor (Ponce) to bring to only real laughs throughout the whole film.
Couples Retreat is a lazy, unimaginative comedy that with the talent on show, should have been a whole lot more than another boring rom-com for the pile.