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Surrender, if Necessary

Movie Title: Couples Retreat (2009)
Spoilers: No

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Watching Couples Retreat was like trying to keep eye contact while listening to some uninteresting blabbermouth at work carry on about something you don’t care to hear. You keep eye contact out of respect, but then you start fighting that progressively worsening urge to look away, yawn, and lean back in your chair to look up at those suddenly interesting cracks in the ceiling. You finally succumb to the urges and it is at last apparent that you don’t care.

Maybe you were interested, but that was before the near-monologue became a pointless rant. The details were someone else’s problems; you couldn’t connect, and it ran too long; bottom line: you lost interest. You tried to care – really, you did – but some things are out of your control. Couples Retreat gave me no choice but not to like it.

Vince Vaughn, that guy who always looks like the beer-drinking, dart-playing buddy you’ve known for a long time, plays “Dave.” He is married to “Ronnie” (Malin Ackerman). They feel like their marriage is going ok, but due to the influences of Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell), who both happen to be slide show junkies considering a divorce, they and two other couples end up going to an island that features counseling in the midst of rejuvenating tropical surroundings.

These frustrated couples are given the opportunity to come to terms with their problems while tangling with each other’s vices as they discover what lies beneath their own unique sets of dissatisfaction. But nothing can get you ready for this…this slow, boring, and excruciatingly predictable romantic comedy that feels more like a socially retarded soap opera than anything else. You can’t even appreciate the low-key smut.

The characters are not real or individualized enough to overcome the stick figure stereotypes that they portray. Perhaps the most interesting character is Shane (Faizon Love), a recently divorced and overweight black man who is just plain tired of moving and whose life ambition is to sleep and rest his aching knees while his 20-year-old girlfriend, Trudy (Kali Hawk), tries to get him to go to parties 24/7. A close runner-up would be Jon Favreau as “Joey,” but no one has any sufficient depth.

Not many people know that sitting around and pondering why Vince Vaughn is a star is a way to beat boredom while waiting to be called in to see the doctor. Now you know.

Most of the humor is Grade-D material, predictable stuff, like getting boners during massages at the hands of a beautiful masseuse, a gigantic black “gun” getting shown off that has everyone in awe, and bikini-clad Hula-dancing girls who beckon married middle-aged men whom they don’t know into dancing—it’s like something out of a bad Disney movie with smutty suggestiveness. You have gay foreign exercise instructors who “push” the boundaries in their “duties” and start “doing” what they shouldn’t…can I stop now, please?

What little humor remains is legitimate, and in a more dignified venue, could have succeeded. I laughed out loud…and more than once. For just a few moments here and there, the traffic jam of contorted writing lets up, and in comes some dry and acerbic humor, which aspires to being great, and would have meant something had the film not been gridlocked in a pile-up of formulaic foolishness that ran too damn long.

“Couples Retreat” is as cheap as your last plate of “Vegetable Delight” at a poorly lit take-out Chinese deli where the service is terrible and the people are rude. Since it doesn’t taste good, you needn’t worry about throwing it away, or better yet, not getting it to begin with. Your best bet is to retreat – nay – surrender—do whatever it takes to not have to sit through this!

(JH)

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Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: PG-13
Director: Peter Billingsley
Summary: Four couples settle into a tropical-island resort for therapy and vacation.
Starring: Vince Vaughn “Dave,” Jason Bateman “Jason,” Faizon Love “Shane,” Jon Favreau “Joey,” Malin Akerman “Ronnie,” Kristen Bell “Cynthia,” Kristin Davis “Lucy,” Kali Hawk “Trudy,” Tasha Smith “Jennifer,” Carlos Ponce “Salvadore,” Peter Serafinowicz “Sctanley,” Ken Jeong “Therapist #2”
Genre: Romance / Drama / Comedy
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