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Review: Take a vacation from 'Couples Retreat'

  • Story Highlights
  • "Couples Retreat" stars, was co-written by Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau
  • Plot concerns couples who head for a vacation in Bora Bora, issues in tow
  • Movie offers some nice scenery, but it's lazy with the laughs and plot
  • Most of the movie focuses on male half of couples
By Tom Charity
Special to CNN
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(CNN) -- Remember "You're money, baby"? Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau making the L.A. bar scene in "Swingers" back in 1996?

In the film, couples go to the Eden Resort, which is offering a great package deal on relationship counseling.

In the film, couples go to the Eden Resort, which is offering a great package deal on relationship counseling.

They were young and hungry then, and there was insolence in their hustle, but at least they pressed their case: They knew they were sharp enough to be players.

Since then, Favreau has gone on to direct blockbusters like "Elf" and "Iron Man," and his buddy Vaughn has stacked up a string of hits in the company of Frat Packers Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.

Well, they're not hungry anymore, and not so young either. Between them (and with an assist from Dana "What Happens in Vegas" Fox), they have cooked up "Couples Retreat," a marriage comedy that coincidentally doubles as an enviable excuse for an extended shoot in Bora Bora. Video Watch the stars talk about the shoot »

That's the tropical location of the Eden Resort, which is offering a great package deal for married couples looking for relationship counseling. Jason and Cynthia (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell) want to give it a shot, and persuade their supposedly happily married friends Dave and Ronnie (Vaughn and Malin Akerman), Joey and Lucy (Favreau and Kristin Davis), and Shane and his 20-year-old girlfriend Trudy (Faizon Love and Kali Hawk) to join in the fun. Apparently, nobody has trouble raising the fare, even in these recessionary times.

Once there, however, they are dismayed to find Eden is run with iron discipline, and the mandatory therapy sessions soon expose serious cracks in each of the relationships.

Directed by Peter "A Christmas Story" Billingsley -- another old friend of Vaughn's -- "Couples Retreat" can't decide if it's satirizing New Age-y therapies or exploring marital breakdown. So it gives us a little of both, with some sub-Apatow sex humor on the side.

As a commercial recipe, that's fine. America's ticket buyers have shown time and again they're desperate for a laugh and willing to overlook widespread mediocrity to get it. But you might hope for something a bit less lazy from this team.

And shouldn't a movie with "Couples" in the title be less lopsided in its approach to the sexes? I guess in contrast to such boys-will-be-boys romps as "The Hangover" and "Wild Hogs," at least this time the wives get to come along, not that any of them has much to say for herself.

Trudy wants to party. Lucy has eyes for the yoga instructor (Carlos Ponce). Ronnie wants some romance. And Cynthia ... I don't know what Cynthia wants, but getting away from her control freak husband certainly seems like the way to go.

The guys are noticeably chubbier, but equally one-dimensional. It's just that that dimension enjoys rather more screen time as Billingsley indulges Vaughn and Favreau's less-than-inspired improvisational riffs on marital frustration, machismo and middle-age spread. We even have to endure a Guitar Hero duel.

For a movie made by a bunch of friends, it's strange that we don't get any sense of how or why these couples hang out together. But so long as there's a pretentious Frenchman to scoff at, an officious Brit and a sexy Hispanic, at least they're united by what they're not.


Whether by accident or design, "Couples Retreat" does such a good job exposing what selfish, insensitive jerks these guys are, the contrived and conventional ending actually has a feel-bad undertow. You've got to suspect that back home in suburbia, these couples are doomed to live unhappily ever after.

"Couples Retreat" is rated PG-13 and runs 107 minutes.

All About Vince VaughnJason BatemanKristin Davis

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