Tag Archives: Jason Bateman

Movie Review: The Gift (2015)

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I’ve always been a big fan of Joel Edgerton, one of the most underrated and talented actors to come out of Australia in recent years. And I’ve now become a super huge fan after seeing his directorial debut, The Gift, a seemingly cookie-cutter suburban thriller that’s anything but.

Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall play Simon and Robin, a couple who move from Chicago to LA for reasons that become apparent as the movie progresses. Shortly after moving in, they bump into Gordon “Gordo” Mosley, played by Edgerton, who claims to have gone to high school with Simon decades ago. And so begins an awkward and tense relationship between the couple and the mysterious blast from the past, who as the title and trailer suggest, likes to deliver creepy gifts to their doorstep.

That’s all I can say about the plot without giving away spoilers, and on the face of that description, The Gift may dredge up memories of 90s surburban/family thrillers like Pacific Heights and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. But even if that’s all it is — ie, a typical genre film — The Gift is a pretty good one. With well-developed characters, an uneasy atmosphere and genuine edge-of-your-seat suspense, it’s already a few steps ahead of more recent efforts such as 1999’s Arlington Road, 2001’s Domestic Disturbance and 2008’s Lakeview Terrace.

However, The Gift is much more than a typical genre film. It’s a subversive journey full of twists and turns, challenging audiences to put aside preconceived notions. Edgerton’s direction and script (yes, he wrote it too) plays with our knowledge and expectation of such thrillers, manipulating us into thinking one way and then shocking us with another. But it’s not all about tricking us either, as there are times when he chooses more conventional thriller paths and cliches — it’s just that we never know which approach he will take. It’s clear Edgerton, with his wealth of experience as an actor, knows how certain filmmaking techniques will make audiences think and feel, and he has taken full advantage of that.

I don’t want to overstate things here — we’re not talking about genius-level brilliance like The Usual Suspects or anything like that — though for a debut feature it’s hard to deny that Edgerton is impressive and has a wonderful future ahead of him if he decides to focus on more behind-the-camera work.

Full credit too to the cast. I love Jason Bateman, so don’t get me wrong, but he’s always more or less playing a variation of  Michael Bluth from Arrested Development (think about it — Horrible Bosses, The Switch, The Change-Up, Identity Thief, Couples Retreat, This is Where I Leave You, etc). The Gift is the first time I’ve seen him play a completely different character, and I’m frankly quite shocked by how great of a dramatic actor he is. It’s the best performance I’ve seen from him by far.

The lovely Rebecca Hall also gets to show off her acting chops more than I’ve seen from her in any film probably since Vicky Cristina Barcelona. In many ways, she’s actually the centre of the film, as audiences are closer to her point of view than anyone else’s. She’s vulnerable, she’s sympathetic and she’s tough when she needs to be. It’s a complex, multi-layered performance and Hall hits it out of the park.

By comparison, I was actually least wowed by Edgerton’s own performance, which is still a very good one but more difficult to gauge because Gordo is the “outsider” of the story. Edgerton undergoes a bit of a physical transformation to play this role, dying his hair red and dialling the creepiness meter to the max to make audiences as standoffish about Gordo as the protagonists are.

Also worthy of mention is Allison Tolman from TV’s Fargo. She only has a small role as the neighbour, but she manages to make her character more noticeable and memorable than it otherwise would have been.

As clever and crafty as The Gift is, the film does descend into more familiar thriller territory in its third act, veering towards improbable and preposterous plot developments that don’t always make sense. Some might think this “ruins” the film; for me, it’s just the consequence of trying too hard to come up with an explosive climax, a trap that — let’s face it — 99% of thrillers fall into. It’s not bad, it’s just a missed opportunity to take the film to the next level.

A less than optimal conclusion notwithstanding, The Gift is a superb thriller fuelled by skilfully moulded tension and conflicts, strong performances and a promising directorial debut from Joel Edgerton. I hope this film will open the door for us to see more efforts like this from him down the track.

4 stars out of 5

2014 Movie Blitz: Part VII

The Forger (2014)

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It feels like John Travolta hasn’t done anything in a while, or at least anything worth mentioning. His latest effort, The Forger, is unlikely to alter that perception.

In this moody crime drama Travolta plays a master forger of masterpieces (I know, he looks just like one, right?), who strikes a deal with nasty gangsters to get out of jail earlier. Of course, it’s because they want him for his skills so they can commit a robbery, but you could forget that watching this film because most of the time is spent on the relationship between Travolta and his son (Tye Sheridan), who sadly is dying from cancer. Christopher Plummer plays Travolta’s dad and Abigail Spencer (from Suits) plays a detective on his track.

As a crime thriller The Forger is terrible. There’s no suspense and no feeling that any of it even matters. It’s no wonder the film is universally panned for how boring it is.

As a father-son drama, on the other hand, I think there are some nice moments stemming from this wish-granting subplot Travolta gets into. Consequently, I don’t think the film is as bad as it has been made out to be.

Travolta is pretty much always the same as he’s always been, though I believe the tragic death of his teenage son a few years back may have prompted him to take on this role and given his performance an added layer of emotion. Christopher Plummer is always good, but it’s Tye Sheridan who stands out by proving once again (after Mud with Mr Alright Alright McConaughey) that he has a bright future ahead of him.

It’s obviously not great, and most critics seem to disagree, but I don’t think The Forger is a bad random DVD hire.

3 stars out of 5

The Loft (2014)

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Every now and then you get a film like The Loft — a forgettable B-grade thriller with a roster full of recognisable names and faces. In this case we’re talking Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Eric Stonestreet and the Transformers blonde Aussie duo of Rachael Taylor and Isabelle Lucas.

It’s hard to give you an idea of what the film is about without a little detail. Basically, the loft is a sleaze-pad shared by five married friends (the above four actors plus Matthias Schoenaerts) to use for rendezvous with girlfriends, mistresses, one-night stands and so forth. Classy, I know.

But of course, something terrible happens and they have to figure out how to resolve the problem and solve a mystery while they’re at it. It’s actually a remake of a Dutch-language Belgian film from 2008 that must have done well enough to get Hollywood’s attention.

On paper it looks good. Respectable, good-looking cast, a locked room mystery of sorts with flashbacks and a whole load of twists and turns that will kind of keep you guessing. I can see the attraction of such a project.

However, The Loft has a fatal flaw: the characters are just so sleazy, so disgusting, so despicable and such degenerates that they are completely unworthy of sympathy and incapable of invoking any empathy. They’re more than just people with loose morals — some of them are genuinely sick.

As a result you’re just watching a bunch of dickheads get what they deserve and a couple of cardboard female characters act like a couple of cardboard female characters.

That said, you don’t necessarily have to like or care about he characters for a movie to work. Unfortunately, The Loft doesn’t have the requisite elements to qualify as a guilty pleasure. It’s just not satisfying enough, not intelligent enough, not campy enough and not so-bad-it’s-good enough.

Despite all this, the film passes as a watchable DVD or VOD experience owing to its star-studded cast and having just enough intrigue to not be boring. Just don’t expect too much.

2.5 stars out of 5

The Gambler

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I really wanted to give The Gambler its own individual post, but sadly it doesn’t deserve it. I was naturally partial to this film given that it is the follow-up effort of Rupert Wyatt, director of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and I desperately wanted The Gambler to be awesome.

However, while the film does have some intriguing aspects and nice moments, I can’t in good conscience proclaim it a good movie.

A remake of the 1974 film starring James Caan, The Gambler is the tale of Marky Mark Whalberg’s Jim Bennett, a literature professor with a crippling gambling addiction. He’s one of those “all or nothing” guys who never knows when to quit, and the self-destructive habit pushes him to the edge after he begins borrowing money from the wrong people (John Goodman, Michael K Williams, etc), much to the disappointment of his wealthy mother (Jessica Lange, who is excellent in her few scenes).

Wyatt infuses the film with a lot of style and a deliberate pace that results in a completely different type of experience to Apes. It’s not unentertaining and never gets dull, but there’s ultimately not enough substance to elevate it to what it could have been.

Part of the reason is that Bennett isn’t a very likable character. He’s interesting, but he’s also a complete asshole, making him hard to root for or sympathise with. Marky Mark is pretty good, so it’s not his fault.

I’m also deducting some points for the film’s depiction of a basketball game, which is so ridiculous and unrealistic that it saps much of the tension of what is supposed to be a climactic part of the film. Thankfully the gambling scenes were executed much better.

I really wanted to like The Gambler more, but unfortunately it’s just an average and somewhat forgettable remake.

2.5 stars out of 5

This Is Where I Leave You (2014)

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This Is Where I Leave You is a “light and nice” family drama film (ie, about a family, as opposed to for the family) bolstered by one of the best ensemble casts of 2014.

It’s based on the novel of the same name by Jonathan Tropper and is directed by Shawn Levy, best known for the Night at the Museum films, Date Night and The Internship. This one is better than all those films because of its depth and cast, but the overall feel is somewhat similar — some humour, a dash of gentle drama, and a sugary vibe that takes the heaviness off its life lessons.

Jason Bateman plays Judd Altman, who returns to his hometown following a death in the family and amid person turmoil in his life. There he is reunited with his three siblings (Tina Fey, Corey Stoll and Adam Driver) and their liberal mother (Jane Fonda), and the film follows their lives over the next few days as they deal with their personal issues and relationships.

Rounding out the amazing cast are names like Rose Byrne, Dax Shepherd, Timothy Oliphant, Connie Britton, Kathryn Hahn and Abigail Spencer.

They laugh, they cry, they fight and they reflect on life, pondering what could have been and where they are heading. Everyone is at a different stage in life and has problems and regrets they must face.

It is, however, nothing like August: Osage County, another recent family drama with a huge cast. That was heavy stuff and full of emotionally-draining drama; this is much mellower and aims for sweet poignancy and sentimental reflection. Some moments work, very well even, while others feel like it’s trying too hard.

The result is a mixed bag. It’s not my type of film, to be honest, but the cast is so spectacular that you can’t help be drawn in. Each actor plays to their strengths when it comes to the comedy, and you can see their respective personalities shining through. The humour is light but it’s funny enough for the most part, and the drama is sufficiently engaging though ultimately fails to offer anything new. It’s unfortunate, because it’s a waste of the massive pool of talent squeezed into the film.

This Is Where I Leave You is not bad, but it’s certainly nothing special. I quite liked it despite feeling underwhelmed by its failure to come close to reaching its full potential.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Horrible Bosses 2 (2014)

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I didn’t think much of 2011’s Horrible Bosses despite its lovable main cast of Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day. You can read my full review here, but basically I just didn’t find it funny enough, and it’s always disappointing when a comedy fails to come to close to living up to its potential.

And so it surprises me to say that even though Horrible Bosses 2 is possibly one of the most unnecessary sequels of all time, I actually found it funnier than the original. Call me crazy, or perhaps it was the lowered expectations; maybe I was just in the right mood this time — whatever the reason, I laughed more and was generally less annoyed by the unfunny stuff this time around.

Fed up of being bitches to their horrible old bosses, Bateman, Sudeikis and Day ditch their day jobs to become inventors of a new shower appliance. Their embarrassing appearance on morning television attracts the attention of a wealthy businessman played by dual Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz, and his son, played by Chris Pine. Naturally, being the idiots that they are, the trio get screwed over by father and son, and vow to take matters into their own hands.

Things don’t go according to plan, of course, and soon the movie spirals into a kidnapping farce with plenty of outrageous stupidity. Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston, who played two of the horrible bosses in the first film, manage to make their ways back into the script somehow in smaller roles, and are actually allies to our bumbling heroes.

The jokes are still mainly crass, crude and vulgar, sexually explicit, politically incorrect and (borderline) offensive. The main difference this time, at least for me, is that everyone involved seems more relaxed and less eager to impress, and as a whole, the film doesn’t as hard to be deliberately shocking. As a result, the comedy came across as more free-flowing and less scripted.

The core strength of the film still lies in the three protagonists. As a huge Arrested Development fan, I am glad to say that Bateman’s character definitely channels his inner Michael Bluth — he even says “Come on!” Jason Sudeikis also does that pervy act he does so well, and Charlie Day is basically still the moron from It’s Always Sunny that made him famous. No matter what you think of the film, at least take comfort in the fact that the three actors played to their strengths.

The newcomer, Chris Pine, is also very good here, and adds a wicked vibe and new dynamic to the film. There really aren’t any “horrible bosses” in this sequel, but I suppose he comes closest in terms of the top supporting star.

On the whole, Horrible Bosses 2 is an unnecessary but adequate sequel that might surprise some you if you expect as little of it as I did. It has it’s fair share of misses for sure, though I’m fairly sure I laughed more times watching it than I did watching its predecessor.

3.25 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Change-Up (2011)

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Body-swap movies have been done plenty of times before, and they all seem to follow a similar trajectory — but it doesn’t mean they can’t be funny, especially if done right. The Change-Up, yet another Jason Bateman movie, was much better an expected, and probably the best of his recent batch of films (being Couples Retreat, The Switch, Paul and Horrible Bosses — though some may enjoy the latter two more).

Bateman plays Dave, a corporate lawyer on the verge of partnership. He has a beautiful and loving wife (Leslie Mann) and three young children, but he hardly has any time for them. His unlikely best friend Mitch is played by Ryan Reynolds. Mitch is an immature, struggling actor who spends most of his time on drugs and sex. On a wild boys night out a drunken wish is turned into reality, and before things can be rectified, Dave must now live as Mitch and vice versa.

Of course, you probably already knew this. The selling point of The Change-Up is not the predictable premise, but the laughs spawned from watching Bateman and Reynolds play each other. And there are quite a few decent laughs (which I won’t spoil except to say they are not all revealed in the trailer like the majority of comedies these days) because we are so used to seeing Bateman as the straight man (which he is in just about everything — Smoking Aces is the only exception I can think of) and Reynolds as the cocky, charming hotshot/slacker.

The unfortunate thing about The Change-Up is that it often resorts to crude jokes and gross-out shock tactics. Some of them work; some of them don’t. Honestly, I don’t get what is wrong with so many comedies nowadays, which seem to confuse outraging audiences with amusing them using genuine wit and comedic timing.

Some might also feel that the main female characters don’t get a fair shake in the movie. Mann is your typically supportive but emotional housewife, while Olivia Wilde’s ‘hot law associate’ is perhaps more of a plot device than a realistic character. And before you boys spray your shorts, nudity from both these actresses are done through body doubles and digital effects.

A further problem audiences might pick up is the gaping plot holes. But trying to figure out how a bum with no college education can not only work as a senior associate for days without anyone getting suspicious but also stuff up mega deals without repercussions will only dampen your enjoyment of the movie — so it’s best just to go with the flow and forget about them.

Flaws notwithstanding, The Change-Up is still funnier and more engaging than I had expected. Part of it is due to the fantastic chemistry between Bateman and Reynolds, but what surprised me was that the film actually had some heart at its core. Sure it was the exact same message that all body-swap movies have, but I somehow found myself caring much more than I should have in the end.

3.25 stars out of 5!

Movie Review: Horrible Bosses (2011)

Horrible Bosses is, in many ways, this year’s Couples Retreat — amazing ensemble cast, clever premise, Jason Bateman, tremendous potential…and disappointing result.  To be fair, it’s a lot funnier than Couples Retreat (not difficult), but Horrible Bosses never reaches the heights it could have soared to.

Anyone who has ever worked for a shitty boss can relate to the premise of this film — Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis (Hall Pass) and Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) are friends with horrible bosses: the tormenting maniac Kevin Spacey, the douchebag Colin Farrell and the harassing nympho Jennifer Aniston.  Their lives are hell and they dream of killing their respective bosses, leading them to procure the services of ex-con Jamie Foxx.  The plot starts off being somewhat cookie cutter but to the writers’ credit it went places I didn’t expect it to.

A friend of mine who saw the movie before me found it funny but had problems with the swearing and crudity.  He’s not alone as there have been reports of senior citizens walking out in the middle of the movie.  Jennifer Aniston in particular tries to shed her good girl image with lots of raunchy dialogue.  Personally, I didn’t have a whole lot of problem with the swearing and crudity — what irritated me more was that it wasn’t particularly funny, or at least not enough of it was.  The scenarios were there, the set ups were there, but the jokes lacked the finishing punch.

It’s a shame, because Horrible Bosses has one of the best comedic line ups of the year.  The three main leads play to their strengths.  Bateman is the regular straight-faced, dead-pan character (which works so well for him), Sudeikis is, like he was in Hall Pass, sleazy and a bit of a sexual deviant, and Day is his usual high-pitched, freaking-out self that we know from It’s Always Sunny.  The bosses are indeed horrible and serve their purpose, but aren’t that funny.  Spacey makes you believe he is real (in fact he reminds me of a few real people), Farrell is physically impressive but just okay, and Aniston is not bad, but may be trying too hard at times.  Foxx is probably the highlight despite limited screen time.

I’m not sure what exactly went wrong with Horrible Bosses.  Don’t get me wrong, I laughed a few times and I enjoyed bits and pieces of it.  Dreaming of killing your boss is a deliciously wicked idea, and watching three bumbling idiots trying to get it done is pretty funny.  But at the end of the film I sat there wondering why I didn’t find it funnier.

2.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Paul (2011)

I like comedies and I’m fascinated by aliens, so Paul, the new sci-fi comedy written by and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (of Shaun of the Dead fame) seemed right up my alley.  In short, Paul is pretty good, but nothing special.

Paul is about two English comic book nerds and buddies, Graeme and Clive (Pegg and Frost), who travel across the Atlantic to attend Comic-Con and to take a trip in their RV across the country to visit alleged alien hotspots.  Of course, they run into the titular character, voiced by Seth Rogen, who is unlike all the stereotypes we have come to expect, and that kick starts off a series of wild and wacky adventures.

For me, there were lots of moments where I went, ‘That’s very clever’ and had a giggle or two, but the laugh-out-loud moments were rarer than expected (though, to be fair, there were a couple of ripper gems).  That made it slightly disappointing as I thought the potential for better laughs was definitely there.

My favourite thing about Paul is the Arrested Development connections.  The film is directed by Greg Mottola, who did a few AD episodes back in the day before going on to direct Superbad and Adventureland.  Jason Bateman plays the mysterious Agent Zoil, and there’s also Jeffrey Tambor as a sci-fi writer and Jane Lynch as a themed cafe owner.  They are all brilliant.  I won’t spoil any more than that except to mention that the film also features the likes of Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), Bill Hader (Adventureland) and John Carroll Lynch (my favourite husband from Fargo), plus a few truly awesome cameos.

Ultimately, Paul is what it is.  A few flashes of comedic brilliance, some clever lines, surprisingly wonderful cameos and references — super fun but not exactly super funny.  I’d call it an amusing film with a dash of geeky charm, for the most part an enjoyable chuckler as opposed to a laugh-out-loud kind of movie.

3.25 stars out of 5

Qantas In-Flight Movie Blitz!

I need to get this one out quickly because all of the movies are fading fast from my memory.  On my trip to China a couple of months ago I saw 2 movies on the flight there and 2 on the way back.  Keep in mind that I was under the influence of anti-anxiety medication for all 4 films.

Thanks to Qantas for having such a terrific collection of reasonably new films, even in economy.  I’ll let all the safety issues slide this time.

The Switch (2010)

Huge fan of Jason Bateman (largely because of Arrested Development) but not much of a fan of Jennifer Aniston.  Unfortunately, the Aniston factor overrode the Bateman factor on this film about a dude (Bateman) who switched the sperm sample used for the artificial insemination of his best friend (Aniston).

This was a strange film.  The main problem is that while it’s an interesting idea, there’s just nothing fresh about it.  Its biggest sin is that it’s supposed to be a comedy but it’s not particularly funny.  Damn you, Aniston.

1.75 stars out of 5

Conviction (2010)

This was one of those inspirational true stories starring Hilary Swank.  She plays Betty Ann Waters, a remarkable woman who went to law school and became a lawyer just so she could prove her brother’s innocence.  That’s dedication for you.

While Conviction was good, anchored by the usual strong performance by Swank and also by Sam Rockwell as her brother Kenneth, it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.  It was dramatic but occasionally slow, heartfelt but occasionally melodramatic.  Good but not great.

3.25 stars out of 5

SPOILERS: By the way, this was not mentioned in the film, but Kenneth Waters actually fell off a wall and died just 6 months after his release from prison (where he spent around 20 years).  That’s just so brutal I’m lost for words.

Tamara Drewe (2010)

I recently checked out the comic book from which this film was based, and I must say I found it a little boring.  The film, on the other hand, was a surprising delight.  It’s one of those well-made little films that explores human nature.  It stars Gemma Arterton as the titular character, who returns home to a small village in England to sell the house she inherited from her deceased mother.

I guess a part of the reason I liked the film was because Tamara is a journalist and the film is set around a writers’ retreat, which provided many opportunities for clever humour.  It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but Tamara Drewe was probably the best film out of the 4.

3.5 stars out of 5

Morning Glory (2010)

This was a coming-of-age film about the morning television industry and the crazy stuff that goes on behind the scenes.  I really like Rachel McAdams and she does a great job here as the young up-and-comer on the show ‘DayBreak’.  Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton are also both very good as the anchors.

It’s a charming film because of the characters and performances but unfortunately not as enjoyable as I thought it would be.  Even though there haven’t been very many films with the same subject matter, I somehow felt like I had seen it all before.  Perhaps all such films have the same formula?  Or perhaps I’m just not really into the world of morning TV?

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Up in the Air (2009)

When I first heard about George Clooney’s new film Up in the Air, I thought it was the sequel to the 1994 basketball comedy The Air Up There starring Kevin Bacon.

Well, not as such.

The story revolves around Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a man with a very unique job which I won’t divulge, but I will say it does require him to be ‘up in the air’ a lot.  Despite having to use his mouth for a living, Bingham shies away from human connection.  Enter Alex (Vera Farmiga) and Natalie (Anna Kendrick), two women who will turn his life upside down and make him question his life choices.

Up in the Air is the real deal – interesting premise, terrific script, great performances; warm, funny and very human – just about everything you could ask for in an A-grade drama comedy.  It’s not the type of film that will make you go ‘wow’, blow your mind or change your life, but it’s a film voters of awards will love (and from the awards it has already received, evidently so).

Up in the Air is co-written and directed by Jason Reitman, director of Juno and Thank You For Smoking.  If you have seen one or both of those films, then you’ll have an idea of the style and feel Reitman injects into Up in the Air.  It is a film dealing with serious issues and tragic situations, but somehow there are plenty of great laughs – certainly more than I expected. Full credit goes to Reitman and I have a feeling an Oscar nomination is coming his way shortly.

As for the performances – I’ve never been a huge fan of George Clooney because of that smug, dickish vibe he constantly gives off, but I have to admit it works perfectly here.  He is charming and funny and he makes you believe Ryan Bingham is real person.  Vera Farmiga, on the other hand, I am a big fan of, so I have nothing but praises for her subtle, believable performance.  And there’s the always-welcome Jason Bateman, who offers his usual stellar presence.

But it is the tiny chipmunk girl from the Twilight Saga, Anna Kendrick (I think she plays the annoying friend Jessica), that absolutely steals the show as the young hotshot.  I never knew she could act.  I think she’ll get a nomination as well and I wouldn’t be too surprised if she won.

If there is a complaint about Up in the Air, it’s that the film is a little flat.  Yes, there are ups and downs and it can get quite emotional, but there’s not much heart-thumping excitement. At 109 minutes, it’s definitely not a movie children would be able to sit through without getting restless.

Nevertheless, on the whole, Up in the Air is a quality movie that ticks most of the right boxes.  It’s unlikely to be one of those memorable films you’ll remember years down the track, but for now, at least, Up in the Air will come to mind when I think about the top films of the year.

4 out of 5 stars

[PS: Felt good to get that one out.  It’s been a while since I reviewed a movie!]

Movie Review: Couples Retreat (2009)

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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