Couples Retreat features one of the best movie cast of this summer or fall season, and the payoff is a healthy share of laughs. Unfortunately, an unfocused plot prevents it from living up to it’s potential hilarity.
The problem is not the acting. Jason Bateman (Jason) and Kristen Bell (Cynthia) do a fine job of playing a couple on the brink of divorce. Their friends are also strongly played by Vince Vaughn (Dave) and Malin Akerman (Ronnie), Jon Favreau (Joey) and Kristen Davis (Lucy), and Faizon Love (Shane).
Jason and Cynthia explain to their friends via a PowerPoint that they want to go to Eden, a luxurious tropical resort, as a final attempt to save their marriage. The only hitch is that they can only afford this trip if they take advantage of a special group discount deal, which would involve their friends coming along to paradise too. However, Jason and Cynthia conveniently forget to mention that the couple’s skill building sessions are not optional.
We spend far too much time watching Jason convince the other couples to accompany them on the trip. They all finally agree to go to the island, which provides a beautiful backdrop for the movie.
Things then take a turn for the worst when the couples, with help from their therapists, begin having problems in their relationship. These therapy scenes are when Couples Retreat is at its strongest. Some of the most memorable laughs come from seeing Jason Bateman pull an imaginary gun on Ken Jeong as well as watching Vince Vaughn freak out at his therapist’s (John Michael Higgins) excessive note-taking. These character-driven laughs progress the story forward in part by providing some insight into the characters and marriages, something I would have enjoyed more of.
This is in direct contrast to some of the other scenes, which feel more like gags made just for the trailers. An example is when Joey and Lucy attempt to seduce their masseuses. There’s no payoff in this scene.
The movie’s main problem is that there are too many characters, which results in most of them being one-dimensional. An alternative could have been focusing more on Jason, Cynthia, Dave, and Ronnie; while the other couples played a more minor role.
Even given its flaws, Couples Retreat has a strong enough cast to provide the audience with consistent laughs. It may not be a classic, but if you’re looking for a fun movie, you won’t be disappointed.