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Movie Review: Couples Retreat

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At first glance, Couples Retreat looks like a can't-miss winner. The talent involved is undeniable, and this is the renaissance of the R-rated comedy which is flourishing in the Apatow era. Raunchy comedies with heart have exploded onto the big screen in recent years, with many of this film's stars having appeared in some of them.

This movie looked to continue along that trend, not quite to the level of, say, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but definitely something worthy of some praise. I mean, the cast includes the likes of Vince Vaughan, Kristen Bell, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Kristen Davis, Malin Ackerman, Faizon Love, and Jean Reno, not to mention being the directorial debut of Vaughan pal and former child actor Peter Billingsley. Hard not to have some positive feelings going in with names like that involved.

The seeds of doubt began to creep in when the commercials and trailers arrived and they revealed a PG-13 rating. What? The early footage I had seen seemed to distinctly point towards an R rating. All right, before you get upset, the rating is not that big of a deal, we all know that rating does not dictate movie quality (although, in certain instances it does not hurt). So, while I felt slightly disappointed, I was still really looking forward to it. Then the unthinkable happened. I saw the movie and it really was not all that good.

Couples Retreat certainly has its moments, but it fails to really go anywhere, show any real conflict, or develop any genuine heart. It is almost as if the cast is just going through the motions. Yes, I laughed, but mostly because I thought I was supposed to laugh, as if being encouraged by a laugh track. That's right, I think this movie may have been served by a laugh track and perhaps a different title. While you're at it, move the characters out of Bora Bora and to some suburban neighborhood and stretch the story out over a couple of seasons. Couples Retreat may have been better had it been approached as a sitcom rather than a feature film.

The movie centers on four suburban couples at different stages of their relationships. You have Dave (Vaughn) and Ronnie (Ackerman), married with children and at a stage where they love each other but take each other for granted. Joey (Favreau) and Lucy (Davis) are married by happenstance — they live in the same house, but that seems to be about it. Shane (Love) is recently divorced and is trying to regain his game by dating the considerably younger Trudy (Kali Hawk). Finally we have Jason (Bateman) and Cynthia (Bell), the couple who spur on the group's retreat.

Why do they head off to the tropical retreat? The trailer reveals that Jason and Cynthia are considering a divorce and this couples retreat is a last ditch effort to save the relationship. They all go because the super-organized and efficient Jason has found a great rate that only applies to couples. Off they go, off to a tropical resort for fun in the sun interrupted by moments of "couple skill building" led by the program's developer, Salvadore (Jean Reno). Sounds like fun, right?

Well, what should be a fun vacation turns into something else as the layers of their respective relationships are peeled away. This constant peeling leaves them exposed to the harsh light of day and despite the gorgeous surroundings, the mood is about to change. All of the couples realize they have issues that they did not recognize before. Will they be resolved before the end of the movie? Is there any doubt?

It really is quite disappointing. There are some laughs, the cast is fantastic, but there is no depth to the story. The conflicts never really hit home or ever feel terribly believable. What makes the movie work at all? Well, the cast is filled with attractive actresses, the tropical setting is gorgeous, and the yoga instructor is hilarious.

In the end, the movie is not a complete wreck, but it is marginal at best. I feel fairly certain that anyone could go to this movie and find something to like about it.

Mildly Recommended.

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