Thanks for checking out our Couples Retreat review.
On the surface, Couples Retreat looks like just another cheap, throw away, romantic comedy that at best could be mildly entertaining, and at worst a complete waste of time. However, the film sports a fantastic cast (with the likes of Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Kristin Davis, Kristen Bell and a few others) and was written by Favreau and Vaughn, who have a pretty decent track record together. Add on top of that the fact that the trailers have looked pretty solid, and I found myself really looking forward to it.
Did it live up to my mildly heightened expectations? No, it didn’t, but at the same time it wasn’t a complete waste either.
THE GENERAL IDEA
The basic synopsis for Couples Retreat reads something like this: A comedy centered around four couples who settle into a tropical-island resort for a vacation. While one of the couples is there to work on the marriage, the others fail to realize that participation in the resort’s therapy sessions is not optional.
Vince Vaughn is pretty much a one character actor these days. Oh he may have started out dramatic, but he’s made a fortune in comedy, and made it with the exact same character over and over and over again. However, unlike Michael Cera, this character doesn’t seem to get old (at least it hasn’t really yet). It’s a more charismatic character with more personality and is, well… funny. When Vince Vaughn is “on”, he has some of the best comedic timing in the business which means whenever his character opens his mouth, you’ve got to be prepared to laugh, and in Couples Retreat, Vaughn is on.
This is a dialog driven movie and for the most part the dialog works really well (for a comedy at any rate). Many comedies rely on shtick, gags and physical comedy to get their laughs (and there is nothing at all wrong with that when it works), but I found that the best moments of this movie were with the straight forward dialog between the characters.
This part may sound redundant since the movie takes place in the tropical paradise… but the movie really was very pretty to look at. The cinematography in the film took full advantage of the surroundings and really helped us “fell” the place the way the characters did.
It’s just a funny film most of the time.
Carlos Ponce, who plays Salvadore the Yoga instructor is brilliant. I loved this character. He was this movie’s McLovin (a side character who ends up stealing the show every time he’s on the screen). I can honestly say I would go see a “Salvatore” movie.
I find these sorts of movies are best when they know exactly what they are, and stay within those limits. For example, when you look at Wedding Crashers, the film quickly identifies itself as a mid-shallow comedy with minor life lessons encompassing a comedy based on a pretty unrealistic set of circumstances. The movie knows that’s what it is, and never moves outside of that and firmly establishes its identity. When I comedy establishes it’s identity and operates within it, it has a greater chance of success. However, Couples Retreat never establishes and identity, because you quickly get the feeling that the movie THINKS it’s smarter and deeper than it really is. This creates several moments in the film when it wants to be taken seriously, but you as an audience member just can’t. At times the movie tries to make deeper and more insightfully observations about real marriage and relationship problems, but they just come off as silly, especially when they’ve already used blatant slapstick comedy tools.
The movie veers way too much into the pure “silly” at times. Once again, if it had established its identity as that right off the bat, then it could have worked, but it doesn’t. For example, there is a completely ludicrous “Guitar Hero” battle scene about 2/3 of the way through that felt so out of place it just made me feel embarrassed for everyone involved in it.
Like many comedies, Couples Retreat all too quickly and all too conveniently wraps up everyone’s problems into a big happy ending. Some deep and potentially complex life issues suddenly rectified by a 45 second epiphany conversation 5 minutes before the end of the movie. It felt cheap. It felt forced, and it felt like the filmmakers just had no idea what else to do with it.
Whereas the first 2/3’s of the film moved along pretty well and was quite funny (if not all that smart), the last act grinds to a complete and painful stall.
Couples Retreat, at its heart, is a funny movie with a pretty solid premies that shoots itself in the foot repeatedly by not developing an identity for itself, acting like it’s smarter than it is one minute, and the nose diving into unfunny nonsense slapstick comedy the next minute. A movie that starts pretty strong but leaves you feeling like the filmmakers didn’t have a clear vision for where they wanted the film to go, and thus the movie stalls in the third act. Still, there were enough laughs and smiles in the film that I don’t regret taking the time out to see it, and so overall I give Couples Retreat a 5 out of 10.