Couples Retreat is a comedy starring Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Kristin Davis, and Jon Favreau about four couples who “get real” as they embark on a tropical island marriage retreat in the tropical paradise of Eden. Quick comic quips rule over physical comedy in the movie while the bonus features in this two-disc set boost the value, especially for a lesser known supporting actor who is also a model and singer. The comedy is staged and predictable, so do not expect any edgy controversy here. Some unpredictable situations have potential, but are quickly shelved so each character has a basic resolution at the end.
Peter Billingsley makes his feature directorial debut while Vaughn, Favreau, and Dana Fox contribute a wide-ranging screenplay featuring almost every possible martial relationship scenario. The main group includes attention-loving Lucy (Kristin Davis) who’s married to the meandering Joey (Favreau). This couple has a young, impressionable daughter. Dave, a guitar game salesman (yes, expect a predictable game showdown) played by Vaughn, and Ronnie (Malin Ackerman) have two kids. The key marriage conflict focuses on the passive aggressive Jason, played by a comically repressed Jason Bateman, and Cynthia, played by Kristen Bell. Her struggles are very authentic and surprisingly touching near the end of the film… for a few moments until her gaggle of gal pals intercede with their own ideals/perspectives. The recently divorced Shane (Faizon Love) shifts his energy towards a younger girl named Trudy (Kali Hawk) who calls him “Daddy.”
Jean Reno plays Dr. Marcel, the main marriage “guru” at the Eden resort (the movie was filmed in Bora Bora). The therapist staff features short but memorable bits from John Michael Higgins, Ken Jeong, Amy Hill, and Charlotte Cornwell. These funny gents and other supporting cast members really shine in the extra features and deleted/extended scenes. Salvadore, played by actor/model/singer Carlos Ponce, has a stereotypical role as the muscular fitness instructor. Once his character works through the story, the whole situation feels like it’s a temptation set up for the retreat participants, yet Ponce puts great energy into the role and steals the limelight from all the major stars. Salvadore’s primal actions are particularly noticeable because he’s the only male on the same comparable physical fitness level as the women. This relationship accentuates a disappointing physical standard and gender discrepancy mirrored in a society where men can generally let their physical fitness deteriorate (Favreau gave a noticeable effort) while the women work out all the time and look amazing to meet societal standards.
The considerable extra features include an alternative ending (adding a bit more character closure), widescreen option, predictable bloopers (only a bit over three minutes worth) and deleted scenes. Optional audio commentary tracks with Billingsley and Vaughn are provided on the seven deleted scenes and three extended scenes as well as the main feature. More cast or crew members would have helped some dead conversational spots as the two seem unprepared to contribute more formal feedback on these tracks. Subtitles and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio language tracks are available in English, French, and Spanish plus a rare descriptive video service track for handicapped viewers.
The amazing, colorful settings are sharply retained from the theatrical version while the “Paradise Found: Filming in Bora Bora” six-minute featurette, where the location is a star itself, focuses on interesting second unit shots with cameras mounted on several land and sea contraptions. It definitely wasn’t all sunshine and fun as island logistics challenged filmmakers, but it’s basically an overview since specific crew members are not included.
Viewers can enjoy the funny, short feature “Behind the Yoga,” involving the tantric yoga sequence, which becomes a great showcase for Carlos Ponce. Salvadore’s various advances on all the women overshadow the movie’s key scenes (e.g. a pointless, awkward massage sequence with Favreau) while Ponce quickly shows enough appeal and talent to warrant his own movie.
Overall, audiences can take a vacation from their mind as relationship memories and current family plans might float around inside this pool of tepid laughter and topical martial issues. This one hour and 54-minute comedy is rated PG-13 for sexual content and language. Also available on 2-Disc Ultimate Vacation Edition DVD and Blu-ray, which includes BD Live features allowing viewers to bookmark scenes and share them.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler