D: Peter Billingsley. DP: Eric Alan Edwards. W: Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn & Dana Fox. Starring: Vaughn/Malin Ackerman/Jason Bateman/Kristen Bell/Favreau/Kristen Davis/Faison Love/Kali Hawk/Tasha Smith/Peter Serafinowicz/Jean Reno.
As fall movie season is in full swing the comedies are of course fewer and the dramas are exploding (do not even ask where Twilight: New Moon stands in that game)! But does that mean the comedies need to of less caliber? Apparently so.
Couples Retreat finds a gaggle of friends on an island facing the ultimate mood killer, therapy. On screen Vaughn’s Dave is his usual comedic self, with a little more stable husband parts thrown in. His wife Ronnie’s role suits Ackerman along with a dark strawberry blond dye job that finally allows her to look somewhat captivating on camera. The pair have chemistry compared to the other couples, with Bateman’ Jason and Bell’s Cynthia feeling the most sterile, even when they’ve had a ‘good night.’ Unfortunately, Favreau’s Joey and Davis’ Lucy are the most stereotypical, and are given the least to do except ga-ga over alternatives to their spouse. Last and worst is Love’s Shane’s obnoxious girlfriend Trudy (Smith) who works so hard to not look at the camera that that audience will begin to wonder who she thinks is standing near her.
The Favreau and Vaughn writing team works well here, giving the audience a few laughs, but fellow writer Fox’s female influence seems to make the biggest impression here. Although there are a few gags, the comedy remains rooted in the silliness of the resort and the division of fun partydom for singles and therapy for couples on the island. This physical division parallels the divisions within each couple that their therapy wants to tackle. Yet throughout the film there is not any sense of innovation or true creativity. Rather Couples Retreat is everything and less that is to be expected, right down to the toilet joke.
What is refreshing about the film is the ensemble cast it requires and the variety of relationships it attempts to explore. Instead of the standard romantic comedy with its single couple, limited comic moments, and rehashed storyline, Couples Retreat truly tries to explore group dynamics and personal journeys underneath the scrutiny of onlookers. And the film does not shy away from difficult modern topics like infidelity, infertility, and the inability to communicate effectively.
But even these topics cannot save this silly film from promoting too many happy endings, reaffirming heterosexual coupling as mainstream, and the importance of marriage as the ultimate expression of love. These factors reinforce its romantic comedy labeling and its inability to bring anything new to the fall movie scene. Sigh, into the next theater!