Couples Retreat

Couples Retreat


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Meet Dave, Jason, Shane and Joey, four old friends committed to helping each other through life's ups and downs. Dave is the everyman, happily settling into middle age, enjoying his family; Jason is the neurotic one who would prefer to approach everything in life through Powerpoint presentations; Shane is the fat, black one (that's his whole personality) and Joey is, um, the other one. Each is equipped with an unfeasibly attractive wife orgirlfriend whose own personality has been simplified into three modes: pout and sulk; flirt with strangers; gaze adoringly at soulmate. Since most are having relationship problems as the film kicks off, we don't see a lot of mode three.

So far, so Stepford (though the children are the ones who actually seem to be played by robots). Then Jason decides that because his marriage is failing they should all accompany him to an island 'paradise' where he and his wife can get couples therapy whilst everyone else has a good time - except that the therapy turns out not to be optional for anyone, and all sorts of other problems bubble to the surface as a result.

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This is a movie for people who think that watching other people go through therapy is fun. Let me make this clear: it's no Annie Hall; it's not even The Couch Trip. There is no redeeming wit involved and analysing people who have no depth to begin with can only go so far. This is one of those artificial paradises one sees in American holiday brochures, where a once attractive island has been decorated with twee wooden huts, the sea looks like a swimming pool and even the palm trees appear to have been arranged geometrically. It's a place where the rich go to be served by flower-decked 'natives', third-rate actors taking centre stage as the likes of Peter Serafinowicz and Temeura Morrisson are relegated to bit parts. The same artificiality and awkwardness extends to the script. A scene with a shark, which ought to create some sense of danger, is the epitome of the BBFC label 'mild peril', and a climactic showdown is played out through Guitar Hero. This may be one of those comedy moments when rubbishness is supposed to be part of the joke, but even then it manages to be boring.

If you want to gaze at sleek bronzed bodies, Couples Retreat may have some appeal for you in places, as long as you're quick to avert your eyes from its flabby heroes. But it's all okay in the end, because manliness can be proven by one's ability to punch people in discos, apparently.

At the start of the film, Dave expresses his concern that Jason may want him to sit through a Powerpoint presentation about testicular cancer. I'd rather sit through ten of those than watch this film again.

Reviewed on: 13 Oct 2009
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Couples Retreat packshot
Four couples go on holiday together and discover that the relationship therapy offered by the resort is not optional.
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Director: Peter Billingsley

Writer: Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Faizon Love, Jon Favreau, Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis, Kali Hawk, Temeura Morrisson, Jean Reno, Peter Serafinowicz

Year: 2009

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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