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Movie Review

Couples Retreat

‘Couples Retreat’ is no day at the beach

By Ty Burr
Globe Staff / October 9, 2009

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Husbands and wives of America: It’s Friday night and you’ve hired a baby sitter. The early-bird restaurant meal has been consumed; the multiplex beckons. Surely you want to see a frisky, fun-filled comedy about married couples arguing bitterly over the attention they’re not giving each other, the resentments they’re storing up, the sex they’re not having. No? Better beat a retreat from “Couples Retreat,’’ a movie for people who prefer to get their relationship advice from rich Hollywood stars.

The movie is co-written by Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, whose breakthrough movie, “Swingers,’’ was 13 years ago and feels it. Vaughn plays Dave, married to Ronnie (Malin Akerman) with two overly precocious Hollywood tykes (Gattlin Griffith, Colin Baiocchi) and no downtime. Favreau is Joey, stuck in mutual loathing with wife Lucy (Kristin Davis). Their big-bubba friend Shane (Faizon Love) is divorced and dating a 20-year-old mall clerk (Kali Hawk). Fourth wheel Jason (Jason Bateman) is a type-A twit who can’t conceive a child with equally tense Cynthia (Kristen Bell).

Are we having fun yet?

Yes, there’s pointed human comedy to be mined from the very real stresses of married life, but this bonehead idiots-in- paradise farce raises issues only to gloss them over. The four couples sign up for a Caribbean island getaway that turns out to be a relationship boot camp run by a touchy-feely Euro-guru (Jean Reno in a pigtail) and his metrosexual minions.

In other words, “Couples Retreat’’ pokes fun at fairly reasonable therapy-speak by putting it in the mouths of effeminate foreigners. Then it lets the heroes discover those same truths via Applebees metaphors and prominently displayed cases of Bud. Why isn’t Tim Allen in this movie?

There are some chuckles. Bateman’s habit of turning every aspect of his life into a PowerPoint presentation is funny and some of Vaughn’s and Favreau’s lines have a good rude snap. Otherwise, if the thought of a little boy pooping in a showroom toilet fills you with joy, here’s your movie. The bit where Vaughn is encircled by sharks might have worked if the sharks weren’t obviously digitally added later. Everything about “Couples Retreat’’ feels plastic, though: the jokes, the trees, the extras, the attitudes. It’s dumbed-down entertainment aimed at a dumbed-down audience - the comedy equivalent of a McMansion.

By the way, how can you tell this was written, produced, and directed by guys? All the husbands have SWUB (soft white underbellies) and all the wives are hotties. A bigger problem is that none of the characters is remotely likable. The first-time director is Peter Billingsley, Vaughn’s producing partner and a former child actor best known as Ralphie in 1983’s “A Christmas Story.’’ He doesn’t put an eye out here but he comes damn close.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com. For more on movies, go to www.boston.com/movienation.

COUPLES RETREAT Directed by: Peter Billingsley

Written by: Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, and Dana Fox

Starring: Vaughn, Favreau, Jason Bateman, Faizon Love, Malin Akerman, Kristin Davis, Kristen Bell

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 107 minutes

Rated: PG-13 (sexual content and language)

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