Oh, the things we’ll do for friendship. Once upon a time, Jon Favreau wrote a couple of nice, intelligent, if unspectacular, little comedies—Swingers (1996) and Made (2001)—that starred himself and his buddy Vince Vaughn. Now many years, a bit of stardom and higher pay grades later, we have Vaughn starring, writing—along with Favreau—and producing Couples Retreat, one of the most laborious, ill-advised excuses for a romantic comedy to come around in some time.
Any of the past wit found in those aforementioned comedies is a rarity in Couples Retreat. Instead, we get a compendium of comedy’s lowest common denominators. Adorable precocious child? Check. Lame bathroom humor? In spades. Awkward sex jokes and homosexual panic? You’ve come to the right place. And to top it all off, since this is a movie about troubled couples, we get lots and lots of uncomfortable, grating spousal arguing. And all of this in a movie that’s at least 20 minutes too long.
The setup is simple. A group of couples not looking for any type of self-improvement head off to a tropical resort that specializes in relationship therapy, as they attempt to save their friends’ (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell) failing marriage. But they all soon find out that instead of jet skis and snorkeling, like they’d been promised, they’ve all signed up for couples counseling.
In theory, the movie is then supposed to be some informative tract for successful marriages, but the ideas are all too pat and riddled with useless metaphors to be practical. The movie strains and stretches just to get itself into a position where everything will turn out OK within the film’s running time. There’s nary a surprise to be found, adding up to some lazy, uninspired filmmaking.
On top of the movie’s slew of pointless scenes and hokey gags is Vince Vaughn parading around the worst aspects of his on-screen persona, while this is the worst role Bateman has had since Teen Wolf Too (1987). Really, there’s little here to recommend besides a handful of clever lines that I’ve honestly forgotten due to how incredibly pointless the rest of the movie is. Rated PG-13 on appeal for sexual content and language (originally rated R for some sexual material).