Monday, 11 October 2010

Couples Retreat (2009)

Have you seen a movie where you wanted to slap everyone up on the screen? I don't mean films where there is one very annoying character who needs a right seeing to, but a film where virtually every character makes your skin crawl at one stage or another. Such is the case in this supposedly 'high concept' movie, except for 'high concept' read 'stupid'. It's the tale of four couples, one of which (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell) feels their marriage falling apart, largely because of her failure to conceive. To work out their problems, he has signed onto the waiting-list for a tropical resort famous for resolving marital difficulties. The catch is that he can not afford the tariff, but if he can bring along three other couples, they can each go for half-price. So he bullies Vince Vaughn and wife Malin Akerman, Jon Favreau and wife Kristin Davis, and a fat black friend Faizon Love (since this is an equal opportunity movie) who has recently separated from his wife and who is trying to get involved with a young foxy bimbo, into dropping everything and to come along with him, promising them that they can avail themselves of the resort's wonderful facilities and that they do not need to get involved in the psychological programmes.

Ha! The resort which is run by martinet French looney Jean Reno (I hope the paycheck was worth the idiocy, Jean) and staffed by a bunch of authoritarians has other ideas. If all the couples don't take part in the therapy, they can just buzz off without recompense. So while no marriage or relationship is ever quite perfect, the protagonists allow holes to be picked in each of theirs by the most annoying group of counsellors you care to imagine, bringing each of them to the brink of collapse. Vaughn and Akerman probably started with the strongest marriage of the bunch, despite his commitment to business not leaving sufficient time for house and family, while Favreau plays a horny hound-dog lusting after the nubile females at the nearby singles resort and his wife also appears not immune to extracurricular activities. Love appears to be intended as largely (no pun intended) comic relief in what is actually a singularly unfunny comedy.

So who's to blame? Vaughn and Favreau have a long-standing movie relationship and presumably friendship, dating back to 1992's "Singles", and they have taken on co-producer and co-writer caps on this abortive film, so much of the blame must be laid squarely at their door. I mean does Favreau really imagine himself as a prone-to-masturbation satyr irresistible, when given the chance, to a flock of fetching beauties? Does Vaughn really think that being scraped by a tame shark warrants diva-like tantrums? Do the pair of them think that a running joke about a child peeing or defecating into a showroom non-functioning toilet is the height of sophisticated humour? Do they really believe that deep-rooted marital problems can be happily resolved in the last five minutes of a movie to provide an unbelievable happy ending? Between them they seemed to have wrested control of the movie from first-time feature director Peter Billingsley. The latter is probably best known for his acting role as young Ralphie in the 1983 cult classic "A Christmas Story". While I am not suggesting that he should rest on his laurels and I understand that he has had a not unsuccessful career as a producer, I do not foresee a brilliant future for him as a director if this film is anything to go by. On the other hand I believe it was financially successful, probably because of (disappointed) expectations from the name cast. However I can't recommend this humourless farrago to anyone who actually likes any of the stars so annoyingly showcased here.
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