Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau met each other while filming the 1993 film Rudy. They quickly became friends and went on to write and star in two more films, 1996’s Swingers and 2001’s Made. Swingers really started their rise to stardom, and they haven’t really come down from those heights until recent years. Couples Retreat sees the pairing once again onscreen, this time with a variety of stars to join them in exotic locations. How could this go wrong?
In Couples Retreat, married couple Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) are having marital issues over their inability to have a child together. They want their friends to join them on a vacation to an oceanic paradise where the purpose is to reconnect spouses experiencing problems in their relationships. The other couples include Dave and Ronnie (Vince Vaughn and Malin Akerman), who are happy but stressed from work and their two young boys; Joey and Lucy (Jon Favreau and Kristin Davis), who were high school sweethearts but got married after she got pregnant on prom night, and now they’re feeling burnt out; and Shane (Faizon Love), who is newly divorced and trying to recapture his youth by having a 20-year-old girlfriend named Trudy (Kali Hawk). The other couples are led to believe that the workshops and counseling sessions are optional, but they quickly learn that everyone is required to take part in the team-building activities. Soon each couple will find themselves tested by Monsieur Marcel (Jean Reno), the marriage expert who runs the resort, and as a result each couple’s hidden problems rise to the surface.
The premise of this film actually could have provided a lot of laughs. We know both Vaughn and Favreau have the ability to make audiences laugh, but it just doesn’t happen as much as you would like here. The plot becomes fairly predictable. There is some conflict here, but you never have any doubt that things will work themselves out in the end. More than half of the jokes in this film aren’t that funny. Mostly all of the jokes revolve around sex, which would be fine if this film was rated R. But since this is a PG-13 film, Couples Retreat can’t push the envelope as much as any of Judd Apatow’s films, which it desperately still wants to be. There is even a heavy-handed “fight for your marriage” message that it tries too hard to get across as well, which is of course, give equal time with each other as well as your own interests to make things work.
It doesn’t help that a third of the main characters are unlikable, and the other third aren’t given much to do. Vince Vaughn’s character and Malin Akerman’s character are the most likable, with Jon Favreau’s character being the most unlikable. Yet Favreau’s character is probably the funniest. The one interesting character that doesn’t see its name in starring credits is the locations. Couples Retreat was shot in Bora Bora, Tahiti, and French Polynesia, these are exotic locales are certainly pretty to look at. The film makes good use of the deep blue water, lush trees and white sand. It almost makes you believe that the only reason these actors agreed to do this film is just so they can get a free vacation to these locations. It certainly feels that way when you see most of them sleepwalking through most of the film.
Couples Retreat seemed liked a slam dunk winner of a film on paper. You know Favreau and Vaughn were thinking just that when they wrote it.
It’s too bad they filled this film with mostly unfunny jokes that can’t really get too raunchy, because they want the most eyeballs to watch it. It also didn’t help that they were too busy soaking in the sun and sand to actually act the way we know they can. Even up-and-coming starlets Malin Akerman and Kristen Bell aren’t given enough time to save this film either. This film does have its moments and it will certainly entertain most Vaughn and Favreau fans, but even hardcore fans of those guys will likely be disappointed. It could have, and should have, been better than it is. As it is, though, it’s just another decent average comedy that you probably won’t remember this time next year.
The video included is available in both widescreen color presented at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs. The quality is great, especially whtn the background locations take center stage. But it’s still just about on par with other new release films on DVD these days. No major problems here.
The audio included is available in either English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, or French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear, so no major problems here either.
Audio Commentary – This is a full-length audio commentary with actor/producer/writer Vince Vaughn and director Peter Billingsley. This is not that entertaining really. They don’t seem that into it, and mainly give you obvious bits of information. So not really worth listening to, unless you really like this film.
Deleted Scene – There are 7 scenes that didn’t make the final cut of the film, and they total 7 minutes. You have the option to hear an optional audio commentary from actor/producer/writer Vince Vaughn and director Peter Billingsley about why these scenes were cut. Not all of these are funny, but there is some stuff that might entertain those that enjoyed this film.
Alternate Ending – This is a 3 minute scene that would basically just add on to the final scene in the movie. It has the main characters on camera, and wraps up the movie that way.
Extended Scenes – There are 3 scenes here that get extended from what you saw in the film. This runs 4 more minutes. It mainly just gives more screen time to Shane’s girlfriend and ex-wife.
Gag Reel – There is 3 minutes of the usual unfunny gags and bloopers from filming. It should have been funnier given the actors in the film.
“Therapy’s Greatest Hits” Featurette – This runs 5 minutes and it’s a combination of deleted footage and bloopers from the therapy sessions, featuring the couples and therapists bouncing material off each other, including more repetitive material.
“Paradise Found: Filming in Bora Bora” Featurette – This runs 6 minutes and it features the cast and crew talking about about how gorgeous the filming locations were, and how they enjoyed filming there.
“Behind the Yoga” Featurette – This runs 4 minutes and it’s all about the infamous tantric yoga class scene. it shows how the main actors prepared for this scene. Watching them all prepare for this scene is pretty funny actually.
If you are a hardcore fan of Vince Vaughn, then you might want to buy this DVD for your collection. All others will want to rent this, if you MUST watch this film.
Universal Home Entertainment presents Couples Retreat. Directed by Peter Billingsley. Written by Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, and Dana Fox. Starring Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Malin Ackerman, Kristin Davis, Faizon Love, Kali Hawk, Jean Reno, Peter Serafinowicz, and Carlos Ponce. Running time: 113 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: February 9, 2010. Available at Amazon.com
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