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Movie Review: Couples Retreat

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Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau are great friends. This is very apparent as they have now starred in five films together since their original collaboration Swingers back in 1996 and its unintentional sequel Made. Along the way they have made a pretty good friendship with little Ralphie Parker himself (A Christmas Story), Peter Billingsley. He has appeared with them both in the boring-except-when-Vaughn-and-Favreau-are-on-screen-together The Break-Up; joined them in last year’s Four Christmases, and had small roles in Favreau’s own Elf and Iron Man. Now the trio bring us Couples Retreat.

When Vaughn and Favreau are on-screen together their rantings usually get heated and tense, but all for the sake of comedy. The verbal diarrhea these two spew upon an audience in just a matter of minutes is usually hilarious if you can catch half of what either is saying between breaths.

Couples Retreat stars Vaughn as Dave, happily married to Ronnie (Malin Akerman). They have two youngsters; the youngest of whom seems to take particular love in making his parents life miserable in public by using toilet displays in home improvement stores.

Joey (Favreau) is married to high school sweetheart Lucy (Kristin Davis) whom he knocked up before graduation. They are trying to make it through each day, arguing over who was supposed to mail the tuition check, while trying to talk sense into their now-grown daughter, who just wants to leave the house looking like an escort for hire.

Shane (Faizon Love) is their one-liner dropping newly divorced friend who has just started a “relationship” with a 20-year-old named Trudy (Kali Hawk). She likes to call him “Daddy” in public which is ultra creepy as he’s easily twice her age.

While at a birthday party for one of Dave and Ronnie’s kids, the group of friends is talked into attending a power point presentation given by their friends Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell), The couple has been trying to conceive a child for years, which has put such a strain on their relationship, they are now considering divorce. But they would like to give it one last try, and ask the motley crew to join them for a week-long getaway at Eden Resort.

Once on the island they discover they must all participate in organized relationship building activities or forfeit their stay and return home. Although Jason and Cynthia came to the island for this reason, it's more than the other couples bargained for. But since they are already there, and it’s an all inclusive resort, the rest of the group decide they might as well stay.

Meanwhile, Joey  finds out that while they are in Eden East, across the water on a separate island, lies Eden West–where the singles get to party and have lots of sex. One morning after Shane wakes up to find Trudy missing, Joey knows that she must be on Eden West and devises a plan for everyone to bring her back–but not without an ulterior motive.

Whether everyone is snorkeling in shark-infested waters, sitting in an inexplicable sauna hut that sheds snow, or canoeing out into open waters to find Trudy, the non-stop banter between characters is movie's strong suit. Some of the couples begin to realize they have relationship troubles, and others try to work through the troubles they were there for in the first place. But in the end everyone comes to realize something wholehearted, which brings the film together and everything finally works.

Out of the Vaughn and Favreau’s pairings, all but one have either been storied or scripted by one or the other. Of those five, Favreau directed Made himself, but this time has handed the directorial reigns over to Billingsley. The results are slightly mixed, but the spirited cast keeps the film rolling along thanks to a witty script co-written by Vaughn and Favreau along with hack Dana Fox, who brought us the crap-fests The Wedding Date and What Happens in Vegas.

I don’t know where Dana Fox found the magic lamp that granted her wish to be a prolific Hollywood screenwriter, but the genie inside needs to be rubbed out. I haven’t found anything online that makes mention of this but she seems to be a good friend of with Cameron Diaz; out of the five films she’s credited with, all but one have starred the actress.Ironically, this film stars Malin Akerman who strongly resembles.

The Couples Retreat script gives me some hope for Fox, as it’s easily the funniest movie she’s been involved with, and while “What Happens in Vegas” was by no means a laughfest, it did manage a few guilty chuckles. Her next film, Wichita stars Diaz alongside Tom Cruise, reuniting them after 2001’s Vanilla Sky. It's directed by James Mangold with a co-writing credit with Scott Frank and Mangold so fingers crossed.

Originally rated R but granted a PG-13 after appeal you can easily tell where scenes were trimmed and lines were altered with jarring camera angles. The DVD/Blu-ray editions will undoubtedly sport an unrated version. So whether you’re looking for a great date movie or just out for a slightly raunchy good time this weekend you could easily do worse.

With Halloween creeping upon us and October being known as one of Hollywood’s dumping months it’s nice to have a movie live up to its premise and offer such a great escape, even if you’re just watching a live-action screen saver for two hours.

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About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival.