Everyone loves a vacation, right? Beautiful scenery, tropical drinks, fun in the sun. Add a few of your closest friends and you could have the trip of a lifetime — or a romantic getaway gone horribly awry.
To be fair, the four pairs in Couples Retreat don't realize what they're agreeing to when they head to Eden East, a swanky resort on a remote island. But once the relationship boot camp begins, the friendships quickly break down, and it's often more depressing than hilarious. To see what I mean, just
The movie's couplings range in age, family size, and personality, with Vince Vaughn and Malin Akerman at the epicenter. As Dave and Ronnie, they are perhaps the most "normal" of the bunch. Between Dave's demanding job making video games (hello, Guitar Hero product placement) and raising two young sons, Dave and Ronnie don't even realize their problems until they are forced into couples skill-building. Vaughn is his typical wise-cracking character, but a touch of sweetness makes his on-screen relationship with Akerman the most enjoyable to watch. You can actually believe that they love each other and aren't using the trip as a band-aid for a bullet hole.
Jason and Cynthia (played by Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell), on the other hand, are a lot harder to relate to as two type-A personalities with an undying love for organization and PowerPoint presentations. Jason and Cynthia present the idea of the group vacation to their friends as a last-ditch effort to save their marriage (promising that the therapy sessions are optional, of course). Bell is her typical adorable self, but Bateman is insufferable. His character is painfully meticulous and overbearing, making the audience feel just as suffocated as Cynthia does.
Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis) represent the worst of the worst: the couple that's been together so long that they don't even notice each other anymore. The high school sweethearts take the trip not as an opportunity to re-kindle the flame, but to chase skirts (or in this case, bikini bottoms) and muscular yoga instructors. Favreau gets a few laughs with his quest to get to Eden West, the "singles" side of the island, but age-wise, Davis doesn't quite fit in with Bell and Ackerman. It's also hard to laugh at characters that embody one of the biggest fears for young couples, and their ice-cold relationship is almost too realistic to scoff at.
Then there's Shane (Faizon Love), who's newly separated from the wife he still loves, but brings along his 20-year-old girlfriend for the ride instead. As Trudy, Kali Hawk steals a lot of the laughs as she yearns to drink and party all night long while her boyfriend would rather take a nap. One joke that never gets old: Trudy's insistence on calling Shane "Daddy" throughout the entire film.
With such a strong headline cast, it's disappointing that the supporting actors steal the show. I laughed the hardest at Dave and Ronnie's adorable boys (who get very little screen time) and at the motley crew of therapists and other wacky workers at the resort dedicated to making this the trip from hell.
At the end of it all, you'll get a few laughs along with some very beautiful imagery, but you might just want to put your money toward your own vacation instead.
Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures