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October 23, 2009
Vol. 51 No. 6

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'Couples' comedy was not a treat for writer

Universal Pictures' "Couples Retreat" is a debilitated, predictable and excessively sentimental movie that will most likely go from the box office to the new releases shelf to the five dollar bin at Wal-Mart within one year.

This movie did not meet my expectations by any means. With an amazing cast including Vince Vaughn, Kristen Bell and Jason Bateman, I expected a rolling-on-the-floor-laughing comedy. However, all I received were a few risqué jokes that I had heard before in countless other movies.

Throughout the entire film I waited for some huge climax or turn in the plot followed by a spectacularly funny ending with happy, unexpected outcomes for each character. When the credits rolled, I asked, "Was that really the ending?"
The four couples in the movie were overly cliché, with the typical problems of married life drawn out in the most dramatic and egocentric ways possible.

One couple, Dave and Ronnie (Vaughn and Malin Akerman), though still in love, didn't seem to have any time for each other due to children, home renovations and careers.

Jason and Cynthia (Bateman and Bell) have a divorce on the horizon after finding themselves unable to conceive a child. Joey and Lucy (Jon Favreau and Kristin Davis), whose 18-year-old daughter was about to move out on her own, were counting down the days until they could divorce, for unknown reasons.

I guess a viewer could infer that they stayed together for their daughter, who was born right after the two graduated high school. However, it was never made clear why their marriage was on the rocks, which seems to be quite an important detail in the character development.

Finally, Shane (Faizon Love) had already been divorced by his wife, so he showed up to the couples retreat with his new 20-year-old girlfriend.

The four couples go to Eden West, an island on Bora Bora devoted to helping couples rekindle their relationships through delicious food, yoga, water sports and an activity dreaded by most of the couples: skill building.

If this movie was at all worth seeing, it was only because of the overly-attractive men and women that were cast, the skimpy bathing suits everyone was wearing and the adorable little boy who kept using the model toilets at the hardware store (which was definitely my favorite part of the movie).

My least favorite part of the movie was when a yoga instructor on the island, played by Carlos Ponce, showed the characters how to do yoga moves in extremely sexual and awkward ways. It didn't seem realistic. I sat through the duration of that part cringing at the sight of Ponce stretching each of the characters in ridiculous, unnecessary ways that may have been slightly amusing if the scene hadn't been so absurdly long.

A trivia fact on the International Movie Database Web site, imdb.com, revealed some of the more risqué lines from the movie were cut before its release. It seems like the movie was originally made to be R-rated, with more sexual content, but was then edited to keep its PG-13 rating. I have no problem with PG-13 rated humor; however, I didn't even get much of that. In fact, my laugh became more than just a chuckle only at the cute little jokes from the two youngsters of the movie.

A.O. Scott, movie critic for The New York Times, agreed with my overall view.

"'Couples Retreat' is a comedy of exhaustion," he wrote. "I don't mean that the four couples in question [...] are suffering from conjugal fatigue. They are, but not in any interesting or revealing way. It is the comedy itself, in both concept and execution, that seems tired.'"

According to the Rotten Tomatoes movie review Web site, rottentomatoes.com, the movie received only a 14 percent approval rate. "Despite a talented cast and some reliably pleasant interplay between Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, 'Couples Retreat' leaves viewers stranded in an arid, mirthless comedy," the site read.

The movie was written by Vaughn and directed by Peter Billingsley, who some may recognize from his character Ralphie in the holiday classic, "A Christmas Story."

"Couples Retreat" had all the best intentions and the potential to be a great movie. However, something didn't add up.

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