Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I was fairly convinced that this movie ĎCouples Retreatí was going to be comedic slam dunk. The male cast members are all universally funny, and all of them, except for one, werenít asked to do anything they havenít done over and over and over again. The female cast members were all universally hot and while Peter Billingsley mightíve never directed a movie, at least not one that Iím aware of, this is Peter Billingsley for goodness sakes. A Christmas Story? Hello? Surely being a child actor in a beloved holiday tale is more than enough qualification for directing a major motion picture. Where did it all go so terribly wrong?

Vince Vaughn is Dave, a hard working seller of video games dealing with the complexities of family life with his lovely wife Ronnie (Malin Ackerman). His good friend Jason (Jason Bateman) seems to have the perfect relationship with his wife Cynthia (Kristen Bell) until the couple informs their friends, via Power Point presentation, that they are splitting up. But before they make this drastic step they need their friends, which include married couple Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis) who canít stand the sight of each other, and recently divorced buddy Shane (Faizon Love) and his new twenty year old hood rat girlfriend Trudy (Kali Hawk) to join them on a tropical couples getaway training session so they can get a reduced rate.

Though the friends resist at first, the movie is called ĎCouples Retreatí so off they go to be counseled by renowned marriage counselor Dr. Marcel (Jean Reno) who will show them the ways to regain the love. But of course itís not that easy. Couples who thought that they had no problems will discover they have all kinds of problems, couples that knew they had problems had no idea how serious these problems were and the dude with the twenty year old girlfriend learns the hard way that twenty year olds donít get tired as easy as forty year olds.

Thereís some other stuff that happens which really doesnít have much to do with anything but it all comes back to the love with the lesson being that if you live in movie land your crap relationship will be instantly repaired in the last five minutes. Guaranteed.

The characters in this movie, for the most part, werenít asked to do anything they donít normally do in movies. Vince Vaughn might not be all that gifted as an actor but he does that thing he does probably better than any actor does that thing they do. You know that Vince Vaughn thing he does. That fast talking, immature slick witty dude thing? He does that here. But even though he does that thing he does, to the tee, heís supposed to be the emotional rock in this movie. Okay. Jason Bateman does his sly, sardonic witty routine and Jon Favreau is the funny angry aggressive dude. Hell, Iím not comfortable with change so this should work. Now for whatever reason the filmmakers decided to take Faizon Love out his comfort zone and force this cat to actually act. Faizon has a well worn shtick that works for him, just like these guys have, but noÖ they made Faizon be the sensitive wimpy dude. That probably wasnít the best move thematically speaking.

But Faizon wasnít the main problem. The problem was that this movie, with all these funny people, wasnít all that funny. It had its moments, mostly early in the movie, but there were incredibly long stretches of no humor in this movie. Incredibly long. I guess these stretches were designed to help us get to Ďknowí these characters better and thus get the audience to invest in actually caring what happens to these characters, but personally, with exception of Malin Ackermanís super sweet housewife character, the more I got to know these characters the less I liked them. So I didnít give a damn about their emotions and their feelings and their hopes and their dreams and their desires. I just wanted these clowns to shut up and do something funny. I wouldnít even call it failed humor because when the movie tried to be funny it seemed like it worked, but it just wasnít trying to be funny and instead the movie turned into some kind of dry, dull, drawn out treatise on how NOT to engage in a meaningful relationship.

Donít take my word for it though because I was in a theater packed of full of people sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to guffaw and they were quieter than I was. I felt embarrassed on one occasion because I was the only one that laughed at a particular joke. Sometimes the mob mentality takes over and people just bust out in spontaneous laughter for no particular reason, like what happened when I saw ĎNorbití, but not in this one. ĎNorbití was funnier than this. Personally I canít think of a worse thing to say about a movie.

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