Movie Review: Couples Retreat (2009)


Couples Retreat, the new comedy written by and starring Vince Vaughn and John Favreau, gets my vote for the most surprisingly unfunny movie of the year.  How is this possible?  While it is not terrible, it left me wondering how a film featuring a whole cast of brilliant comedians could turn out to be so overlong, tedious and completely devoid of humour.

I’ve been a fan of Vaughn and Favreau since the 1996 hit Swingers, so I had reasonable expectations for this film.  Then when I heard Jason Bateman and John Michael Higgins (two of my favourites from Arrested Development) were also going to be in it, Couples Retreat became a ‘must-watch’.  The rest of the cast wasn’t too shabby either – Malin Ackerman (The Heartbreak Kid), Kristin Davis (Sex and the City), Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Faizon Love (My Name is Earl), Ken Jeong (Role Models), Peter Serafinowicz (South Park) and Jean Reno (The Pink Panther 2) – all actors with comedic experience.

The premise was also very promising – four couples with various relationship problems going to a paradisaical resort.  The opportunities for laughter were seemingly endless.

However, for some unfathomable reason, Couples Retreat simply wasn’t funny.  Sure, some of jokes fell flat, but the bigger problem was that there just weren’t very many jokes in the 113-minute film.  Being Couples Retreat, there was of course a lot of focus on relationships, but it was as though they forgot that this was supposed to be a comedy.  The situations were custom made for laughter, yet the laughs rarely came.  And it was like this all the way through, until the end when the film was reduced to a sentimental mess with painfully forced resolutions.

Without the laughs, it was just a bunch of selfish, annoying, unlikable people being obnoxious in a beautiful place.  Now, being unlikable does not stop a person from being outrageously hilarious or even endearing (eg Homer Simpson, George Costanza, David Brent/Michael Scott, the entire Bluth family).  Unfortunately, not one of the characters in Couples Retreat managed it.  Only John Favreau delivered a few decent laughs and only Malin Ackerman’s character demonstrated mild endearing qualities.

At the end of the day, Couples Retreat was a massive disappointment.  I saw an interview with Vaughn and Bateman when they were promoting the film in Australia and they were absolutely hilarious by just being themselves.  It will forever remain a mystery to me why Couples Retreat couldn’t have channeled some of the hilarity of its wonderful stars into it.

2 stars out of 5

3 thoughts on “Movie Review: Couples Retreat (2009)”

  1. From the preview I knew this wasn’t going to be *funny* in fact, the last funny Vince Vaughn movie was Wedding Crashers. So no, it wasn’t haha funny in any sense but I think Vince and Co are really going to a midlife crisis/existential questioning. Like The Breakup before it, this movie is more drama than comedy and it seems the writing was pointing more in the direction of marital crisis and the difficulty of keeping that relationship going after X years, when the fire has gone out, the kids, the job, all the shit, etc. Like it was trying to shed some light on that, it just didn’t succeeded because this was suppose to be a comedy and in the end it ended up being neither. But clearly Vince Vaughn is going through something and he’s not sure how exactly to express it.

    1. Hey man, that was exactly what I was thinking when I saw the movie, except I didn’t really know how to express it! It seems to me Vaughn and Favreau have lost their mojo. Swingers was when they were both young and energetic…Couples Retreat reflects how they are both now middle-aged men questioning their relationships…

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