Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Faizon Love, Jon Favreau, Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis
Rated: PG-13 on appeal for sexual content and language. (Originally Rated R for some sexual material.)
Running time: 107 minutes
Bottom line: Too much couples therapy, not enough retreat
"Couple’s Retreat" is a sitcom episode masquerading as a feature film.
The wives are all stunning and parade around in bikinis and tank tops. Their husbands are all out-of-shape slouches, and the key to overcoming all issues is merely to wait until the final few minutes to talk to each other honestly.
Maybe communication is the key to healthy relationships in real life, but in this case it makes for one tedious movie.
The whole ho-hum affair begins when Cynthia (Kristen Bell) and Jason (Jason Bateman) inform their friends that they are considering divorce.
They’ve found a couple’s resort that may save the marriage, but they can only afford a trip to the resort if they can get the group rate.
So Jason and Cynthia guilt their friends into joining them, and each couple deals with a particular marital issue during the trip.
Dave (Vince Vaughn) and Ronnie (Malin Akerman) have grown bored and take each other for granted. Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis) married immediately after high school when they became pregnant, and their marriage has devolved into open resentment. Shane (Faizon Love) is recently divorced and takes his 20-year-old rebound girlfriend Trudy (Kali Hawk).
The set-up is the first of numerous frustrating moments that leave us thinking, "Just get on with it." We know what’s coming, but the movie insists on over-complicating and drawing everything out.
The couples finally reach a fictional resort in Bora Bora called Eden.
The actual filming location is the outrageously beautiful St. Regis Bora Bora, which to paraphrase Ferris Bueller, "If you have the means, I highly recommend visiting."
The couples stay in thatch-roofed huts that rest on stilts over crystal blue water. They watch fish swimming through a window in the floor.
From that point on, the real star of the movie is the St. Regis Bora Bora.
But alas, the couples must attend therapy, and alas we are forced to watch them. Two of the therapists are well-known, oft-hilarious character actors John Michael Higgins and Ken Jeong. But the film never plays the therapy sessions for laughs, opting instead to depict realistic sessions.
We also endure New Age philosophizing by resort founder Marcel (Jean Reno) and a snooty director named Stanley (Peter Serafinowicz).
The only worthwhile scene in the entire second act features a buff yoga instructor named Salvadore (Carlos Ponce) whose hands-on instruction becomes uncomfortably inappropriate.
Nothing against Ponce, but it is a bad sign when a no-name actor playing a completely predictable character steals the movie from this cast.
The production team seems so determined to make the relationships in "Couple’s Retreat" play out realistically that they drain out all the fun. They discuss their feelings endlessly yet only once does the bickering reach the passion of a genuine argument.
Even though we’re watching four relationships on the verge of falling apart, there are almost no fireworks.
The third act of the movie is the best part of the film, only because the characters finally DO something. For a couple of scenes they stop squabbling and move around.
This was apparently a family affair for the Vaughns. Vince co-wrote (with longtime collaborator and co-star Favreau and Dana Fox), co-produced and stars. His sister Victoria Vaughn produced. His father, Vernon, makes a cameo.
The Vaughns surely enjoyed making the film more than we enjoy watching it.
"Couple’s Retreat" squanders the talents of a dozen or more talented actors. Cut down to a lean 80 or 90 minutes this might be a winning comedy.
As is, it is one of the longest two-hour movies to come along in a while.
When the couples arrive at the resort, Dave says, "This place looks like a screensaver!" My advice: rather than seeing this movie, find a Bora Bora screensaver, snuggle up with your significant other and pour yourselves some boat drinks.
Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.