' ' Cinema Romantico: Couples Retreat

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Couples Retreat

There are many bad movies, of course, but there are varying categories of bad. There is Aggressive Bad, as in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening" - suffering not merely from poor concepts and wooden acting but from direction so proletarian it would have flunked Mr. Shyamalan out of the Colorado School Of Mines Film School - which, whether you want it to or not, forces you to stick your nose into the dung of its badness. There is So Bad It's Good, as in Ed Wood's noted camp classic "Plan 9 From Outer Space". There is Michael Bay Bad (self explanatory). And then there is Boring Bad, which brings me to last year's "Couples Retreat".

"Couples Retreat" isn't Aggressive Bad because during the course of watching it you never really feel overwhelmed by its awfulness. It isn't So Bad It's Good because it's incredibly boring and not funny, neither when it's trying to be funny nor when it's trying to be funny and failing nor when it's not trying to be funny and failing. It isn't Michael Bay Bad because nothing blows up. "Couples Retreat" is just....bad. When it ended I literally said aloud to myself, "God, that was bad." Then I thought about it and re-iterated, aloud, "Yeah. That was really, really bad." As it unfolds you will feel your eyes glaze over as you turn into a movie-watching zombie, bored stiff.

Wait, I should probably address its plot before going any further. Okay....so these four couples go on a retreat. Once they have arrived at their photogenic destination-

Reader: "Hold on! What couples?!"
Me: "Ugh. Do I have to? Can't you just look it up on IMDB?"
Reader: "Do you purport to be a movie reviewer or not?"
Me: "Fine."

Our four couples: Dave (Vince Vaughn) and Ronnie (Malin Akerman) are a couple at the stage where home renovations and their two rambunctious sons rule their lives. Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis) are set to get a divorce they are telling no one about as soon as their oldest daughter heads off to college. Shane (Faizon Love) has been dumped by his wife and now has taken up with 20 year old Trudi (Kali Hawk). Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) make public their plans to get a divorce but are hoping to stave off this course of action by taking a (ahem) couples retreat to a mystical island paradise called Eden West. The only problem - it is too expensive for them to go solo so they attempt to enlist the other trio because the rate would be half off. We learn what type of couple Jason and Cynthia are when they make this entire pitch to their friends via power point.

The problems here become obvious almost immediately, and not I'm talking about one of Vince Vaughn's sons peeing in a fake toilet at a home renovation store. (Apparently Vince's humor is getting more lowbrow with each passing movie. In "Four Christmases" comedy was "generated" by babies projectile vomiting. Now it's peeing in public. What's next? Dogs humping something?) After Jason and Cynthia have made their pitch we have to endure a passage where Dave and Ronnie have turned them down and so Jason shows up at their house in the middle of the night in an apparent attempt to break in (or something) and try to re-convince them and....what are they doing? Just get us to the damn island already! "Couples Retreat" is far too long for a wacky comedy.

Or is it a wacky comedy? I don't think it quite knows. The script here is by Vaughn and Favreau (and by Dana Fox, whose previous credits include - gulp - "What Happens In Vegas" and "The Wedding Date") and has several overlong passages that appear to want to address relationship dilemmas in a real way which exist only because the script could not determine how to dramatize these events, making them not only hollow but also rather boring. Not to mention everyone's issues get resolved in a single night at the singles resort across the way amidst body shots and roofies. If you want to make a serious comment on couples, well, sorry, but this can't be your final act.

Meanwhile the wacky quotient is supposedly handled by a gallery of supporting characters like Jean Reno slumming it as a new age couple skill building expert and the ever dependable John Michael Higgins as a therapist and the requisite guy (Carlos Ponce) in a speedo. (Memo To Vaughn, Favreau & Fox: Speedos Do Not Automatically Equal C-O-M-E-D-Y. You have to give the character something to do. Remember in "A Fish Called Wanda" when John Cleese is strutting around naked in the home that isn't his? Remember how the people whose home it really is enter to find him? Cleese's script knew that him just being naked wasn't funny all on its own. First, it had him get indignant and then have to recant.)

What is happening to Vince Vaughn? I just don't get it. I have mentioned before how Vaughn himself has commented that he wasn't responding to romantic comedy scripts coming his way and so he set out to start making his own which he has done, progressively getting worse with each one. (Vaughn acted as producer on "Couples Retreat".) Will someone stage an intervention on his behalf? Please? IMDB indicates his next film is set to be "Cheaters", directed by Ron Howard and written by a guy named Allan Loeb who - and stay with me here - is apparently writing a remake of the fantastic French comedy "The Valet". That film was everything "Couples Retreat" isn't. It refuses to insult the intelligence of its characters, mixes just the right amount of poignancy with hijinks and, rest assured, involves no children peeing in public places. I have no doubt the Americans will completely f--- it up. Especially if Vaughn, Favreau and Fox are hired for rewrites.

Also, I'd like to amend a previously made statement - "Couples Retreat" was the worst movie of 2009.


Castor said...

Couples Retreat is stupefyingly unfunny. You would think a movie starring Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau and Jason Bateman would at least be remotely funny but it isn't. There was nothing rom or com about this terrible film.

Nick Prigge said...

Stupefingly is a really good word. It is stupefying to watch a supposed comedy and realize you haven't laughed for the whole 2 hours.

Simon said...

It's not even bad. It's an indifferent non-entity. I just don't care enough to call it bad.

Nick Prigge said...

Actually I think you just invented yet another category of bad. "Indifferent non-entity bad."