Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Couples Retreat (2009) - Valentine's Mess

On the Menu: COUPLES RETREAT (2009)
Ingredients: Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Faizon Love, Kristen Bell, Malin Akerman, Kristin Davis, Jean Reno, John Michael Higgins and Ken Jeong. Directed by Peter Billingsley. Run time: 113 minutes. Rated: PG-13.

At First Bite: Vaughn and Favreau were in some great movies together: RUDY, SWINGERS and MADE. More recently, they've starred in THE BREAK-UP (crap) and FOUR CHRISTMASES (average). Favreau penned both SWINGERS and MADE, and he has a writing credit again with this comedy. Vaughn co-wrote COUPLES RETREAT, along with Favreau and Dana Ross, but his only other writing venture was the movie I described as crap above. From the trailer though it appeared, to me, that the duo had come up with a good laugher.

Four couples embark on a trip to a breathtakingly beautiful island resort, Eden. One couple is going to save their marriage. The others are going for fun. Well, they're promised fun anyway. Unfortunately, the therapeutic portion of the trip is mandatory for all. The resort's guru is Marcel (Reno), and his methods are eccentric, e.g. swimming with sharks.

Each couple finds they have problems, and they have a week to work them out with Marcel's program.

Second Helping: Yes, I watched the movie a second time, but only because there was a commentary track from Vaughn and director Peter "Ralphie" Billingsley. Mostly, they talk about how they've worked with certain individuals on other movies. It's a pretty bland commentary.

Tough to Swallow: During the commentary, for the film and deleted scenes, Billingsley and Vaughn talk about how they left parts out due to the pacing of the movie. Well, the run time is almost two hours, and that's including a lengthy and pointless Guitar Hero showdown. Not enough laughs for a movie portrayed to be hilarious in the trailers. The therapy sessions slow the film down as well, but the filmmakers seem okay with trying to force laughs from the ridiculous program work. We saw the joke of the first exercise in the previews, the shark bit wasn't funny, and the yoga bit overstayed its welcome.

Something to Chew On: Peter Billingsley has now worked with Vaughn and/or Favreau on 8 movies; this was his directorial debut. The characters are from Buffalo Grove; Vaughn was born in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. Vernon Vaughn, Vince's father, plays Grandpa Jim Jim. Because of budgetary reasons most of the resort staff in the movie are actual islanders who work or live there.

Back in November, there was a big to-do in the U.K. when Faizon Love and Kali Hawk (both likenesses and names) were removed from the film's poster by Universal. The studio apologized and decided not to use the revised posters in other countries. Had they realized how unfunny the movie was maybe they should have taken everyone off the poster.


It's also said in some of the special features that this was the first movie to be filmed in Bora Bora in 30 years. Portions of SKY PIRATES (1986) and XXX (2002) were shot there, but the entire 1979 film HURRICANE, starring Mia Farrow, Timothy Bottoms and Jason Robards, was filmed on the island.

There's a short scene after the credits. It's not particularly funny, but it's topical.

The film currently has a 5.7 user rating on IMDb.com (10,213 votes).

Sides: The DVD includes audio commentary from Vaughn and Billingsley. There are also seven deleted scenes, three extended scenes and an alternate ending (all with optional commentary from Vaughn and Billingsley).  There's a 3-minute gag reel, which made me laugh more than the film itself -- I actually just watched it for the fourth time.  "Therapy's Greatest Hits" is mainly outtakes from the couples' sessions (about 6 minutes). "Paradise Found: Filming in Bora Bora" is a 6-minute featurette talking about the difficulties of the shoot despite the beautiful location. "Behind the Yoga" last about 4 minutes and talks about the idea of tantric yoga and the creepy yoga guy.

Aftertaste: I think Frat Pack fans, and probably most movie fans in general, will be disappointed. It's not a guy movie like SWINGERS or OLD SCHOOL. It was a great opportunity to witness Kristen Bell, Malin Akerman and Kristin Davis in bikinis. Carlos Ponce, who plays the yoga instructor, was pretty funny (think Hank Azaria in ALONG CAME POLLY). It focuses on marital problems, but tries to make you laugh as well. It doesn't quite work. Maybe having Vaughn listed as one of the writers was the kiss of death.

Married couples might be somewhat welcome, but anyone else? Retreat!!!

Watch FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL instead.

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