A better title for Couples Retreat — Couples Retread.
Acts one and two has the plot line dangling dangerously in TV sitcom territory already well tromped by 1970s sitcoms Fantasy Island, The Love Boat and their clones. By act three, they’re there.
Four couples, all friends, go to Eden Island to improve their marriages.
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They are greeted by Peter Serafinowicz and Jean Reno who combine in what tries to be a comic version of Ricardo Montalban’s TV island host Mr. Roarke. In this case, “It’s the plain, boss, it’s the plain.”
As in vanilla.
Two marriages are on the verge of collapse, one already collapsed and he brings his 20-year old girlfriend along. Until they get into Reno’s character's vision of New Age marriage enhancement, the other marriage is solid.
I feel no pity for Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau who co-wrote the piece. For their co-stars, Reno, Serafinowicz, Jason Bateman, Faizon Love, Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell, Krisin Davis and the others, we hope this career-killer is worth the paycheck.
To give Vaughn and Favreau some credit, some of the early bits are funny. Their observations about the trials faced by modern couples are sometimes profound. What the two authors and their co-writer Dana Fox (What Happens in Vegas) forget is — when focused — comedy is one of history’s great teachers and motivators. No motivation here. Just relief that it only runs 107 minutes.
While neither Vaughn or Favreau have done a lot of writing, Favreau’s solo writing resume is decent.
Vaughn’s isn’t. His shoot-from-the-hip, ad-libbing comedy style dominates the third act. By the time Couples Retreat gets there, you will desperately want a divorce of your own — from this disastrous movie.
A P.S. Couples Retreat is directed by Vaughn and Favreau’s buddy Peter Billingsley, whose claim to fame is starring as the kid wanting a BB gun for Christmas in the 1983 classic A Christmas Story.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Friday, Oct. 9 at Regal’s Columbia Mall 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.