Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Review: "Couples Retreat"

If "Couples Retreat" looks a bit familiar, you are not imagining things: It's a passably funny comedy assembled from spare parts of other movies.

You've got the couples-on-vacation shtick crossed with the aging horndogs routine, with a little bit of water sports thrown in. Kristen Bell, who got to see some wildly inappropriate tropical yoga in last year's forgettable "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," participates in an encore in this movie.

Heck, the yoga guy even recycles Leslie Nielsen's "let me slip into something more comfortable" joke from the first "Naked Gun" flick. I prefer Nielsen's version, in which he changed from one business suit into another, than the yoga guy's swapping out an unnervingly small Speedo for a shinier one.

The movie stars Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, who launched their careers together with "Swingers" and co-wrote this script (along with Dana Fox). Vaughn does his usual motor-mouth charmer thing, while Favreau perpetually looks like he's bottling up something inside him that will eventually require an emotional catharsis, or at least a trip to the bathroom.

The set-up is that four couples take a trip to a resort called Eden expecting a vacation paradise, but instead get stuck with a lot of tedious relationship counseling and New Age bonding exercises.

The trip was initiated by Cynthia and Jason (Bell and Jason Bateman), an overly analytical duo who like to present everything in PowerPoint presentation -- even the fact that they're considering getting a divorce. They implore their friends to accompany them to the relationship resort so they can get the group discount.

Dave and Ronnie (Vaughn and Malin Akerman) seem to have the strongest relationship, but turmoil lies beneath a placid domestic surface filled with children and kitchen tile crises. Meanwhile, Joey and Lucy (Favreau and Kristin Davis) are phoning in their marriage until their daughter goes to college so they can split up.

Shane (Faizon Love), the big-bellied and big-hearted dude, has just split up from his wife and has brought along a chirpy 20-year-old party girl (Kali Hawk) he just met two weeks ago.

The island is run by Marcel (Jean Reno), a spiritual healer-slash-marketing genius, who built an identical resort next door to the one for married couples, except this one is for singles and consists of one long sex party.

Joey is anxious to get to the singles side for some action, while Lucy is aching for some downward dog time with the ripped yoga instructor.

The rest plays out pretty predictably: Shane realizes he shouldn't try to relive his youth, Dave and Ronnie discover some cracks beneath their seemingly stable foundation, and Cynthia and Jason learn to chase their inner libido.

The movie is directed by Peter Billingsley -- forever Ralphie from "A Christmas Story," who's gotten into the producing game ("Iron Man") and now steps behind the camera. He handles the cast nicely, and there are some good laughs here and there. Too bad so much of "Couples Retreat" seems plucked out of comedy's recycling bin.

2.5 stars

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