Peter Billingsley, the legendary Ralphie from A Christmas Story, and a good pal of Vince Vaughn, makes a sucky, unfortunate feature directorial debut with Couples Retreat. One would think casting Vaughn, his Swingers partner Jon Favreau, and the likes of Kristen Bell and Kristin Davis would’ve gotten him comic gold.
Such is not the case, and the film further proves that sending a bunch of swell actors to an island paradise is ill advised, especially when you have a shitty script. All you wind up getting is a bunch of slumming movie stars looking pretty and relaxed (well, not so much Vaughn and Favreau, who often display massive sweating through their T-shirts). Remember Club Paradise, the 1986 comedy where Robin Williams, Peter O’Toole, Rick Moranis and more headed to the islands for a wacky comedy? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Vaughn plays Dave, a high-income Guitar Hero sales executive (dumbest movie job … ever!) who has fallen into a humdrum marriage with beautiful wife Ronnie (Malin Akerman). During his kid’s birthday party, friends Jason (Jason Bateman) and wife Cynthia (Kristen Bell) give him a PowerPoint presentation on their own failing marriage, and urge Dave, Ronnie and two other couples—Joey and Lucy (Favreau and Davis) and Shane and Trudy (Faizon Love and Kali Hawk)—to go on an island paradise vacation with them.
The catch: The vacation spot they’ve chosen has a rigorous couple’s counseling regimen that vacationers must partake in if they want to enjoy the rest of the island’s commodities. Nobody knew that the couple’s counseling stuff was mandatory, so therein lies some of the comedy. Well, some of the wannabe comedy.
Things are actually OK when the action is on the mainland, but once things switch to the resort island, the film begins its rapid disintegration. It’s a lot of jokes about yoga instructors wearing Speedos and dry humping their students. For every amusing sequence, like Vaughn getting doused with chum in the midst of a shark attack, we get something like Favreau getting interrupted during a masturbatory session, or Favreau sporting wood during a massage. Come to think of it, much of the failed comedy in this venture is attributable to the normally reliable Favreau and his dick.
Bateman is starting to get typecast as the “tight ass” in comedies, and that’s a shame because the guy has range (just watch him in Juno for proof). Bell, Davis and Akerman all deserve better than this. I will go ahead and give Akerman the award for Best Performance in Couples Retreat. That’s like winning Best Sports Car in a Rage-Inducing Traffic Jam During Rush Hour.
Vaughn is a remarkably funny man, which makes his appearance here and in seemingly countless other bad comedies most disconcerting. Seriously, his resume over the last four years, with the exception of Wedding Crashers and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, is quite stinky: Be Cool, Fred Claus, Four Christmases and now this garbage.
It’s as if writers and producers say, “Ahh … we’ve got Vince Vaughn. We don’t have to worry about that dry, humorless patch in the script! Vince will say something clever, do his fast talking shtick, and get us through to the next scene. Screw writing … let’s go drink and party with hookers!” Vaughn and Favreau co-wrote Couples Retreat, so they take the lion’s share of the blame this time out.
Oh, look at that, Vaughn was also the producer of this thing, so I guess we can just put all the blame on him. It made some nice bank on its opening weekend, so I’m hoping he takes himself a little break, finds something worthy of his talents, and quits wasting our time with formulaic tripe.
Granted, I still laugh at him when he’s in formulaic tripe. I can’t help it—he’s funny! It’s very frustrating.