(For on appeal for sexual content and language)
“Couples Retreat” is not a movie that is so intellectually bankrupt that it couldn’t have been good. Had Judd Apatow, Kevin Smith, or Jason Reitman gotten a hold of this movie I think we would have gotten a much better and funny movie. Yes, it would have been edgier and more vulgar, but these are men who know dialog, human relationships, and sexual tension better then anyone else. Even Nancy Meyers would have been able to make something out of this screenplay. The director of this movie is Peter Billingsley. Never heard of him? Neither had I. I Binged his name (because I’ve been developing a slow distrust of Google products) and discovered he is small actor who directed one previous film in 1994 called “The Sacred Fire,” which is a film I never saw or heard of before. Most likely because it was only thirteen minutes in length.
What’s all this got to do with “Couples Retreat?” More then you realize. Movies like these make me mad because there are moments of brilliance. There are moments of heart. There are moments of deep feelings. But these are moments, and in most cases these moments are manufactured. Chances are you’ve seen the ads where Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, and many other overpaid bicker with each other. They bicker over stupid things like dishes, jobs, and how they’ve grown apart. I suspect most of them have grown apart because they don’t talk like any real people would, but what do I know? I’m just the guy who hangs out with real married couples on occasion, even those whose marriages aren’t in the best of shape, and I’ve never seen them act or talk like characters in these movies.
A real writer/director would take this screenplay and make it real. They would make an honest movie out of it. The Buddhist therapist would talk like a real Buddhist rather then walk around acting like a caricature of a Sunday comic strip. But no, a movie like “Couples Retreat” is not meant to be smart. It’s not meant to be intelligent. In fact, despite the fact that it’s about couples in their forties and older, it’s amazing that it’s not even geared for that demographic. This is a movie made for teenagers. It contains the easiest jokes, the most obvious puns, and the stupidest disagreements. The real star of this movie is Vince Vaughn acting like Vince Vaughn. If you can relate to this character then your life is sad and pathetic, and maybe you do need therapy.
And if you’re wondering why I haven’t bothered to explain the story it’s because there’s no purpose to. Bickering couples go to a pleasure resort and...well what else do you expect to happen? Shouting, slipping, boob, erection, and bare butt jokes cover this movie. None of this is surprising, nor is the fact that all the men (save for Batemen) are fat slobs while the women are all beautiful sex Goddesses. And frankly, save for one (the Vaughn character if you can believe it), all the men are complete jerks, and the women look incompetent for putting up with them. No, I brought up the directors above because those men and women wouldn’t have gone for these obvious jokes.
It may have been a typical script when they got it, but I can bet by the end of the day they would have written something far more memorable. But when a movie is made to appeal to teenagers who don’t know what a funny movie is anymore, with stars who really should get better agents, and marketers who don’t know how to sell their movie on anything other THAN the “star power” on the poster, then I frankly don’t know why I should be surprised people flock to spend their hard earned money on movies like these! They’ve been brain washed to just accept it. Before this movie came out I saw two girls looking at the poster. They had never heard about but thought it looked good. Based on what? All you see are people standing in shallow water. I was wanted to question them about this but didn’t. The irony about this moment finally hit me while I was writing this review.
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"You are not buying some 20-year-old broad a motorcycle!" yells Vaughn's character, Dave, to Love's character, Shane, who's having an early midlife crisis. "She's a kid! Buy her a Hello Kitty book!" Turns out that all the couples in Dave and Shane's circle are having issues, and decide to take a group tropical vacation. Ah, but there's a catch: the island getaway comes with mandatory couples counseling and bonding events. Most of the film's laughs come from cringe-worthy fish-out-of-water moments, though there are some pretty great fish-in-water moments, too: Dave begins to panic during a test involving swimming with sharks. "It's time to get the gun, and shoot some fish!"
Reno is also a standout, as the unctuous New Age-y director of the retreat, ...