- The Washington Times - Friday, October 9, 2009

It’s hard to imagine that the thoroughly mediocre and paint-by-numbers romantic comedy “Couples Retreat” was written by the same guy who brought the world “Swingers” 15 years ago.

Whereas Jon Favreau’s script for “Swingers” is both funny and true to life without being overly sentimental or reliant on cliches, “Couples Retreat” is happy to lean on formulaic dialogue (“Well, I don’t like you — I love you”), archetypal characters and lazy plotting heavy on the romantic-comedy genre conventions.

To be fair, it can’t all be Mr. Favreau’s fault: Joining him in the screenwriting duties were longtime on-screen collaborator and fellow “Swingers” star Vince Vaughn (his first script) as well as Dana Fox (the author of last year’s dreadful “What Happens in Vegas”).

“Couples Retreat” follows the travails of four couples as they embark to a luxurious resort where they will hash out their problems. There’s the overworked couple who seem OK but don’t make enough time for each other (played by Vince Vaughn and Malin Akerman), the OCD couple whose marriage is falling apart (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell), the high school sweethearts who are just waiting for their daughter to go to college so they can get divorced (Jon Favreau and Kristin Davis) and a divorced guy on vacation with his 20-year-old girlfriend, who calls him “Daddy” (Faizon Love and Kali Hawk).

Notice that character names were dispensed with; the actors are all doing the same bit we’ve seen from them time and time again. Mr. Vaughn is a lovable rogue with a hard edge, while Mr. Bateman is fussy and detail-oriented. You get the idea.

The only thing that saves this movie from being a total disaster is that the assembled acting talent is so good: Mr. Batemen can earn a laugh via a furrowed eyebrow and a tossed-off thought, while Mr. Vaughn’s tough-guy routine is always fun to watch.

The supporting cast is also amusing: Ken Jeong makes yet another appearance in a comedy (his fourth this year) as a therapist, as does Christopher Guest stock-company regular John Michael Higgins. French character actor Jean Reno turns up as the guru of the island, Monsieur Marcel, while Peter Serafinowicz has a fine turn as the dandified resort guide who accepts smiles for tips.

Still, the good work done by all the actors involved can’t save what is basically a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. There are a few laughs, but nothing resembling a memorable sequence or an interesting idea.

★★
TITLE: “Couples Retreat”
RATING: PG-13 (sexual content and language)
CREDITS: Directed by Peter Billingsley, written by Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn and Dana Fox
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
WEB SITE: https://www.couplesretreatmovie.com/
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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