Beware of any place called Eden in the movies. In Antichrist all kinds of crazy shit happens to Willem Dafoe there, while Kelly Reilly found the idyllic-sounding Eden Lake anything but peaceful.
So it’s not surprising the Eden resort Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau and Jason Bateman head to with their respective wives in Couples Retreat ends up being cack, the dream holiday they’d been anticipating turning out to be an orgy of enforced marital counselling and overly intimate yoga.
Hmm: sounds like we could be in for a veritable laugh riot... Sadly, it’s not only eccentric “Couples Whisperer” Jean Reno who’s operating under false pretences.
So are erstwhile 'Swingers' Vaughn and Favreau, having co-written a film (with Dana 'What Happens In Vegas' Fox) whose wacky moments share equal screen time with some painfully sincere relationship melodrama.
At first it looks like over-analytical Bateman and his baby-yearning spouse (Kristen Bell) are the ones with the problem. Soon, though, everybody’s in on the act, Favreau’s missus (Kristin Davis) making eyes at the resort’s studly yoga instructor and Vince’s better half (Malin Akerman) losing patience with his fratboy antics.
Ok, there are a few neat one-liners, many of them involving chubby divorcé Shane (Faizon Love) and his fun-seeking young girlfriend, plus an amusing Guitar Hero face-off between Vaughn and the resort’s stern manager (Brit-actor Peter Serafinowicz).
For the most part, however, the screenplay reads like a regurgitated self-help manual, not least during one excruciating sequence in which Love’s hitherto unseen ex-wife appears out of nowhere to detail why they should get back together.
First-time director Peter Billingsley, a long-time Vaughn collaborator, strives to generate comic momentum by endlessly cross-cutting between his four couples as they bicker and kvetch in front of Bora Bora’s turquoise seas and exotic flora.
Alas, all this achieves is to make an already choppy film feel even more dislocated.
The laughs soon dry up once Vaughn and co. reveal their hidden agenda in a strained comedy more interested in therapy than merriment. Like the flabby male stars’ over-exposed midriffs, there are some things we really don’t need to see.
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