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Paradise Lost 

An impressive amount of top talent is wasted in 'Couples Retreat'

Peter Billingsley, a good pal of Vince Vaughn and the legendary Ralphie from A Christmas Story, has made a terrible feature directorial debut with Couples Retreat.

One would think that casting Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Kristen Bell and Kristin Davis would've gotten him comic gold. However, the film proves that it's ill-advised to send a bunch of swell actors to an island paradise—especially when you have a shitty script. All you wind up with is a bunch of slumming movie stars looking pretty and relaxed. (Well, not so much "pretty" with Vaughn and Favreau, who often display massive sweating through their T-shirts.)

Remember Club Paradise, the 1986 comedy in which Robin Williams, Peter O'Toole, Rick Moranis and others headed to the islands for a wacky comedy? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Vaughn plays Dave, a high-income Guitar Hero sales executive (dumbest movie job ... ever!) in a humdrum marriage with his beautiful wife, Ronnie (Malin Akerman). During his kid's birthday party, friends Jason (Jason Bateman) and wife Cynthia (Kristen Bell) give him a PowerPoint presentation on their own failing marriage, and urge Dave, Ronnie and two other couples—Joey and Lucy (Favreau and Davis), and Shane and Trudy (Faizon Love and Kali Hawk)—to go on an island vacation with them.

The catch: The vacation spot they've chosen has a rigorous couples-counseling regimen that vacationers must partake in if they want to enjoy the rest of the island. Nobody knew that the couples-counseling stuff was mandatory, so therein lies some of the comedy. Well, some of the wannabe comedy.

Things are actually OK when the action is on the mainland, but once things switch to the island, the film begins its rapid disintegration. There are lots of jokes about yoga instructors wearing Speedos and dry-humping their students. For every amusing sequence—like Vaughn getting doused with chum in the midst of a lemon-shark attack—we get something like Favreau getting interrupted during a masturbatory session, or Favreau sporting wood during a massage. Come to think of it, much of the failed comedy in this venture can be attributed to the normally reliable Favreau and his dick.

Bateman is starting to get typecast as the "tight ass" in comedies, and that's a shame, because the guy has range. (Just watch him in Juno for proof.) Bell, Davis and Akerman also deserve better than this. I will go ahead and give Akerman the award for Best Performance in Couples Retreat. However, that's like winning Best Sports Car in a Rage-Inducing Traffic Jam During Rush Hour.

Vaughn is a remarkably funny man, which makes his appearance here (and in countless other bad comedies) most disconcerting. His résumé over the last four years, with the exception of Wedding Crashers and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, is quite stinky: Be Cool, Fred Claus, Four Christmases and now this garbage. It's as if writers and producers say, "Ahh ... we've got Vince Vaughn. We don't have to worry about that dry, humorless patch in the script! Vince will say something clever, do his fast-talking shtick, and get us through to the next scene. Screw writing ... let's go drink and party with hookers!"

However, Vaughn and Favreau were co-writers of Couples Retreat, so they take the lion's share of the blame this time out.

Oh, look at that: Vaughn was also a producer of this thing, so I guess we can just put all of the blame on him. It made some nice bank on its opening weekend, so I'm hoping he takes a little break, finds something worthy of his talents and quits wasting our time with formulaic tripe.

Couples Retreat
Rated PG-13 · 114 minutes · 2009
Official Site: www.couplesretreatmovie.com
Director: Peter Billingsley
Producer: Vince Vaughn, Scott Stuber, Victoria Vaughn and Guy Riedel
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Faizon Love, Kristin Davis, Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell, Temuera Morrison, Jean Reno, Kali Hawk, Tasha Smith, Carlos Ponce, Peter Serafinowicz, Jonna Walsh, Gattlin Griffith, Colin Baiocchi and Vernon Vaughn

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Colorado Springs Independent Opening this week Couples Retreat, Jazz at Lincoln Center: Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis, The Metropolitan Opera: Tosca 10/08/2009
Portland Mercury Couples... Retreat! Couples Retreat makes a very convincing case against monogamous heterosexuality. by Alison Hallett 10/08/2009

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