While Couples Retreat shows a genuine effort to be a funny movie that tackles serious issues about marriage and relationships, the end result is an ultimately familiar and flaccid, albeit amusing, attempt at meaningful comedy.
Couples Retreat stars Vince Vaughn as the same character he has been playing for 10 years. Dave is abrasive and overbearing, dealing out the fast-talking one-liners like carrots at a fat camp, but only in an effort to mask his heart of gold.
Dave and a group of his friends, four couples in all, go on a trip to Eden, an island getaway intended for couples that need to rekindle their love. When they arrive they realize that the “couples skillbuilding,” what only one couple, Cynthia (Kristen Bell) and Jason (Jason Bateman), has come to experience, is required for all. Wackiness ensues.
Each couple is representative of one form of a relationship: one that isn’t ready and won’t work, one that has dried up and lacks togetherness, one that has forgotten faithfulness and communication and one that is over-regulated and out of sync. However convenient it is to see each form laid out clearly for all to see, by stereotyping relationships the film contradicts its own meaning.
By systematically categorizing the problems couples face, the film upends the theory it promotes throughout: each couple is individual by nature, and must deal with their problems in different ways. The couples of the film, despite their accuracy in resembling some real-world relationships, are flat; they lack the nuance we relate with deep relationships, thus making it hard to truly attach oneself to the characters.
The acting is what one would anticipate from the troupe of comedy regulars, yet the material given to them allowed little to work with. Even the charm of Jason Bateman, who has been in every film made since 2006 (how does he find the time to be in so many movies?!), cannot spice up this film’s average flavor.
Vaughn, who co-wrote the film with Jon Favreau and Dana Fox, brands the film with his unmistakable style of comedy. Much like a conversation with a relative, the film incites viewers to simply smile and nod until its over. Some lines prove giggle-worthy, but beyond that expect sex jokes that fall flat by the truckload.
Obviously judging from the aforementioned criticisms, Couples Retreat is not a great film, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s terrible. It’s average, mundane, run-of-the-mill—it’s the Burger King of movies. Yes, you’d rather have MacDonald’s, but at least it’s something.
Couples Retreat is too easy. It’s a cop-out. The shallow characters and basic story structure is fine for something one could turn on and fall asleep to on a Saturday afternoon (the definition of a Vince Vaughn movie), but it will not be the crown jewel of your collection when it comes out on DVD.