Vince Vaughn as Dave
Jason Bateman as Jason
Faizon Love as Shane
Jon Favreau as Joey
Malin Akerman as Ronnie
Kristen Bell as Cynthia
Kali Hawk as Trudy
Tasha Smith as Jennifer
Carlos Ponce as Salvadore
Peter Serafinowicz as Scanley
Jean Reno as Marcel
Temuera Morrison as Briggs
Jonna Walsh as Lacey
Gattlin Griffith as Robert
Colin Biaocchi as Kevin
John Michael Higgins as Therapist #1
Ken Jeong as Therapist #2
Jim McMahon as Magician
What looks great on paper is merely good on screen as the re-teaming of Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau is reduced to ensemble players dropped in the middle of a situation comedy filled with star power, yet it’s the character actors that steal most of the laughs.
When their friends Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) hit a rough patch in their marriage, they call on their friends to accompany them to a tropical paradise where a relationship guru has a program they hope will assist them. The others Dave and Ronny (Vaughn and Ackerman), Joey and Lucy (Favreau and Davis), Shane and Trudy (Love and Hawk), who are attending mainly for support and the scenery, wind up having to complete the program themselves and learn a lot about their respective relationships in the process.
“Couples Retreat” is rated PG-13 for sexual content and language.
It’s the bit players in “Couples Retreat” that get the lion’s share of the laughs. It’s Reno’s quirky mystic Marcel, and Serafinowicz’s stuffy host Scanley (pronounced Stanley but spelled with a ‘C’), and Ponce’s ripped Yoga instructor Salvador even though he is basically playing the same role Hank Azaria played in “Along Came Polly.”
Then there is the awesome John Michael Higgins as Therapist #1 and Ken Jeong as Therapist #2, who supply some good laughs counseling Dave/Ronnie and Jason/Cynthia, respectively.
Heck, the biggest laughs were provided by young Colin Biaocchi, who plays Vaughn’s youngest boy Kevin.
And, was that former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon playing the magician on the kid’s birthday party early on in the film?! Yes. Yes it was.
While the banter between Vaughn, Favreau and Bateman was good, there is just not enough of it.
The scenery of “Couples Retreat” is stellar. Filmed on location at the St Regis Bora Bora, which was transformed into the Eden Resort for the movie, the crystal blue waters, lush island greenery and posh luxury living would make most anyone run a sewarch on Expedia to see just how much it would cost to stay there (Note: It’s a lot.).
The ‘other scenery’ isn’t bad either. Akerman, Davis and Bell are on full display during their screen time and a trip to the singles part of Eden offers up some additional visual stimulation.
“Couples Retreat” probably looked hysterical on paper, but for some reason, on screen, it isn’t as funny. I’m not sure if I should fault director Peter Billingsley or the ensemble cast that had as many flat moments as funny ones.
Love and Hawk’s screen time isn’t very good and a touch over done, and Hawk’s character Trudy was extremely grating, which was likely on purpose and unfunny, which obviously was not on purpose. Even Love’s post-credits take on the Federal Reserve falls flat.
I felt badly for the other female leads Akerman, Davis and Bell. They are not given a whole lot to do here other than running around half-clothed most of the film whether it is during the initial session with Marcel when they are all told to disrobe, or Davis’ encounter at the spa or Bell’s inebriation that prompts a strip and dip in the nearby lagoon.
In all, “Couples Retreat” is funny, but ultimately disappointing due to the ‘what could have been’ factor. All of this could have been a factor of the PG-13 rating. The movie was initially going to be an R-rated film, but that was ultimately changed. Too bad really, because it seemed to me a lot of laughs were left on the table with this one and that’s a shame. As a fan of Vaughn’s fast-talking smackery, Favreau’s nervous, buckshot rambles and Bateman’s cool, left-of-center deliveries, I figured on a movie that would leave my sides in flames from laughter. Instead, I got a chuckle-worthy rom-com that had its moments, but that I have no burning desire to see again.