Vaughn gone wrong: A review of “Couples Retreat”
Adriana Pratt | Monday, October 12, 2009
t is a sad day when the best character in a Vince Vaughn movie is a little boy whose total screen time lasts around 10 minutes. Unfortunately, that’s the case in Vaughn’s latest film “Couples Retreat,” which he both co-wrote and acted in.
With a cast that consisted of big names such as Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau (who also co-wrote the film), Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell and Kristin Davis, there was no excuse for this movie not to be a winner.
In reality, though, it falls flat and should probably be called “Acting Retreat,” instead of “Couples Retreat” because each of these stars could use some centering to refine their skills after the performances they gave. Akerman and Faizon Love were the only ones who made something of the subpar material they were given.
The storyline centers around four couples who take a joint trip to Eden West, a tropical island used for couples’ therapy, to support Jason (Bateman) and Cynthia (Bell), whose marriage is on the brink of failure after Cynthia is unable to conceive. A few legitimately funny moments ensue, including a scene in which their largest friend, Shane (Love), is forced to publicly strip nude for his partner, and when an embarrassingly toned Fabio-esque yoga instructor gives a physically invasive yoga class. The romantic comedy is sprinkled with a few comical one-liners and many awkward situations, but the execution and combination of these do not add up to a memorable film.
Vaughn’s rambling comedic style, at its best in “Wedding Crashers,” is employed, but his attempts at humor fail because his “Couples Retreat” character Dave is not quite as lovable. Audiences are led to believe he’s the good guy, but then the tables turn and he becomes self-focused and judgmental … or does he? It’s hard to know which image of Dave the writers were trying to give, because half the time he was the voice of reason, and the other half he was nonsensically rude. The attempt at making a multi-dimensional character, which is a must in a quality film, was poorly executed in Dave’s case and altogether nonexistent for the rest of the cast. Shane and his much younger girlfriend, Trudy (Kali Hawk), took both the sugar daddy and African American stereotypes to town, occasionally landing on a funny line or two, but most often making audiences cringe at the predictability. The neurotic and overly organized Jason and Cynthia could have been hilarious if given the proper attention but, once again, the writers took the easy route and stuck to generic material.
Joey (Favreau) and Lucy (Davis) were the typical high school football player and cheerleader who conceived their daughter on prom night and were burnt out by the time she reached college. Both sought attention from sources other than each other and both were in their own ways fairly disturbing. Joey was just plain creepy and Lucy was undeniably forgettable. Davis gave the most discouraging performance of all, half-heartedly embracing the role she was cast in. Hopefully that was a conscious choice and she just didn’t want to give her best because she realized the film was a complete failure.
Ronnie (Akerman) was by far the most realistic and well-acted adult character, but she also failed to be multi-faceted and only halfway complemented her husband Dave’s character. The actor who showed up all of the adults was the three-year old Colin Baiocchi, who played her son Kevin. His scenes saved the film from being completely unwatchable.
What also made the film unbearable were the blatant product promotions. They were constantly shoved in the audience’s faces, the most obvious one being “Guitar Hero.” Not only was Dave a salesman of the product, but there was also a painfully long scene in which he played one of the resort’s managers in a “Guitar Hero” battle. The technologically-savvy film editing of this particular scene was a completely different style than the rest of the movie and, combined with awkward scene transitions, made the film incohesive.
One plus for the movie was that all the females had stellar bodies, which the director made sure to show as much as possible. This, plus the little kid, was the only redeeming factors and both were cheap attempts at entertainment. Vince, you’ve failed us. Please bring back the days of crashing weddings and dodging balls. They were much more successful and, surprisingly, more believable.