The locations in the quickly forgettable Couples Retreat is cerulean and enchanting, and the personalities are likeable enough. Yet, the film by Peter Billingsley from an idea by star, producer and co-writer Vince Vaughn plunges into murky, embarrassing sit-com waters, which may really appeal to the extremely intermittent filmgoer.
The film reunites Vaughn with buddy, director, and co-writer Jon Favreau, and some might hope this might be something like the long-delayed sequel to their Swingers. No such luck, however.
The plot as devised by Favreau, Vaughn, and Dana Fox has four couples on a luxurious getaway that surprisingly looks like the Pacific's Bora Bora islands.
Jason Bateman's Powerpoint presentation gets his friends (including Vaughn's Dave and Favreau's Joey, along with Faizon Love's Shane) and their significant others, including the latters much younger, bimbo-ish Trudy (Kali Hawk), into a very affordable vacation for a group of eight.
There's a catch from Bateman's obsessive, compulsive Jason is having marital troubles with Cynthia (Kristen Bell of Forgetting Sarah Marshall) due to her infertility, as the frustration extends to their peak physical moments together. So, it's mandatory to meet at first light with "couples whisperer" (Jean Reno) to enhance relationships, then sessions individually with a personal therapist.
Being in such a setting for romance begins to cloud the happiness for the whole group, like Dave's redecorating-minded wife Ronnie (Malin Akerman of Watchmen) and Joey's wife Lucy (Kristin Davis of Sex and the City). But, cliche and a little crudeness save the day. A brawny Carlos Ponce as Salvadore is like a mer-man for the women coming from the sea to tantalize the ladies, getting into sexually-simulated yoga formations with the women (and men).
The situations on display tend to stretch credibility to say the least with the vibrant soundtrack from the rhythms of the man behind Slumdog Millionaire tries to mitigate what isn't very funny at all. Like Joey's session with a masseuse who is shocked with his tension or Salvadore popping up in front of the wayward women. Peter Serafinowicz tries to steal his scenes as the petulant, accented group orientation leader who explains that his name is spelled with a "c" (that being Ctanley). And, Dave has what looks to be a scary encounter with some circling (computer-generated) sharks.
Billingsley is obviously chums with Vaughn and Favreau who are able to display their comedic prowess in fits and starts from rounding out their specific characters. But, there's no cohesiveness from the puerile to the supposedly poignant as the expected epiphany is more dubious and unrealized as can be imagined. It may not be easy to extract a sharp, spry comedy for young and older adults as the ups and downs of love just seem to happen here.
The director, fondly remembered as a child in A Christmas Story, does well to make the limited time of Dave's enthusiastic four-year-old son Kevin (Colin Baiocchi) something more grounded in reality while in a big hardware store. This kind of comedy still doesn't have the mischief that could have made it a cool couples retreat.