Couples Retreat (Rating: PG-13)
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Faizon Love, Jon Favreau, Malin Ackerman, Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis, Kali Hawk, Jean Reno, Carlos Ponce Directed by: Peter Billingsley
One would think that a movie titled after marriage and relationships would be the ultimate chic flick, but having been written by Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, this story is very much from the men’s point of view.
Vaughn (Four Christmases) plays Dave, the anchor of a group of friends at varying stages of married bliss. He has the most stable of the unstable relationships, with a dream job selling “Guitar Hero” (did I say this was from the men’s perspective?) while taking his home duties for granted. Jon Favreau (I Love You Man) is Joey, the high school football star turned coach who married young and wishes he could turn back the clock. Jason Bateman (Hancock) plays Jason, a control freak desperate for progeny, and Faizon Love (Elf) is Shane, a recent divorcee going through a typical mid life crisis.
Malin Ackerman (Watchmen), Kristen Bell (Heroes, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Kristin Davis (Sex in the City) and Tasha Smith (Why Did I Get Married) play the lucky wives of this bunch, and Kali Hawk plays Trudy, Shane’s current (and very young and tiring) girlfriend. If the female character descriptions are a little light, it’s because like grooms at a wedding, the women’s responsibilities in this movie are to simply show up. They are, of course, all very fit and hot, and in one telling beach-stripping moment, you are reminded of the Hollywood double standard of beauty for men and women actors. Game point to Vaughn.
The eye candy for the women comes in the form of singer/actor Carlos Ponce, who emerges dripping from the sea as Salvadore, the resort’s yoga instructor. But again, his purpose in the movie, besides the obvious, is to send a message to the men, best described using a Latino saying, “Atiende tu tienda, o otro te la atendera,” which loosely translates to: “Attend to your store, or another will soon be its attendant.”
The movie hi-jinx presided over by relationship guru “Marcel” (played by Jean Reno) are funny if a bit formulaic, and most married couples will relate on some level to the interactions between the husbands and wives. Vaughn is best at his signature man-boy just trying to have some fun routine, and Favreau finds every opportunity to take off his shirt, so much so you wonder if he didn’t have the scenes written into the script just so he can write off his personal training. It was great seeing Davis as something other than a fashionable upper east-sider, though I expected to see “Samantha” pop out of bushes at any moment. John Michael Higgins and Ken Jeong steal their respective scenes as the on-resort marriage therapists, and the “Showdown at the Ponderosa” scene was uniquely entertaining – if only to the Y chromosomes in the room. Overall the characters were pretty believable, though I wondered why they had to make the only black male in the movie have bad credit. What the subplots lacked in depth they made up with good cast chemistry, which made you feel like you were another friend in the group.
The movie is worth the date night with the + 1, especially if you haven’t done the movie thing in a while, and despite the therapeutic title, it is actually an enjoyable couple’s movie alternative to, say, anything with McConaughey, Bullock, or Aniston. With that said, expect the possibility of a little disappointment from your female date, as the movie promises a couple’s tropical fantasy but delivers a tame tale only the male half may appreciate.
Your Daddy Time: Wasted of Worth It? Worth it! 2.5/5 Stars
The Worth It/Wasted Rating System is for dads who need to know one thing- Is this movie WORTH IT to:
* Pack up the kids, bags, etc and trek to the theater – or
* Find a babysitter so Dad can have a date night – or
* Cash in brownie points with the Mrs. so he can go with his buddies
If it doesn’t fit these simple criteria, the movie gets the WASTED rating, which means – don’t waste the precious time you have, wait for video/cable when you can squeeze it between chores, work and sleep.