Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Couples Retreat

I'll Give You Private Lessons For Free

I would have expected a riot of a time given what's in the trailers, but what turned out was plenty of bore, with a story that went way off its potential, having mediocrity stamped all over the film no thanks to the lacklustre narrative written by Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn and Dana Fox, who all seemed more eager to insert smarty one liners whenever they can, rather than to focus on the predicament of the four couples featured in a paradise island.

It's irritating to find that in comedies especially, narratives sometimes get pretty much chopped up due to ad-libbing, NGs, or just for the plain insertion of a funny line that became too difficult to replicate for another shot. Here, this disconnect gets very much pronounced because of how little it tells of one couple's backstory, relying on the audience's memory of what was shown in the trailer to fill in the gap. Call it lazy or slip shoddy presentation, but it was a sign of bad things to come.

The couple in question here is Jon Favreau's horny Joey and Kristin Davis' sexually charged Lucy, who have the hots for everyone else but each other, sticking together for the sake of their daughter until she's old enough to move out, then they can separate to support their respective gallivanting ways. Then there's heavyweight Shane (Faizon Love), a divorcee who recently got hooked up with 20 year old Trudy (Kali Hawk). Vince Vaughn's Dave and Malin Akerman's Ronnie seem like the perfect wedded couple with their nice little family, and being the informal leader of the group of friends, and to round things up, Jason Bateman's control freak Jason and wife Cynthia (Kristen Bell) who are on the verge of a breakup due to their inability to conceive, until a foursome package was signed up to bring everyone to Eden West, a paradise island for adult couple therapy.

But to get to the island, we got to get through, like the therapy sessions in the film, the boring bits to establish each and every character and key relationships, before a hokey powerpoint presentation and some arm twisting managed to finally shift gears and get the characters to where they should be. Unfortunately though, it only got worse, as the laughs dried up very fast, giving way to some very tedious moments of relationship theories being forced down your throat. I suppose couples whose relationships are on the rocks may benefit from some of the ideas bounced about, but to everyone else, we, like the characters, want to get to the fun parts, fast.

Which didn't materialize, and ended up becoming like a series of disparate scenes and incidents being stitched together in a day to day itinerary. One would suspect that plenty of material got saved for a DVD deleted scenes or ultimate uncut version, which makes this theatrical release not so cool, not to mention the final act being totally predictable, and very draggy in getting each couple to their expected resolutions. One also wonders how Jean Reno got himself involved with a dud like this, playing Marcel the founder of the radical therapy programme, if only to build up his resume for not too funny comedic films such as the Pink Panther series.

The only truly funniest moment would be the entire yoga sequence with Carlos Ponce as the instructor Salvadore, who comes with chiseled body and a very large package. Filled completely with full on physical sexual innuendos, it's vulgar and crude, yet extremely funny to watch how disgusted and intrigued the different characters felt as his touchy-feely approach. Nothing else stood out, nd Faizon Love faded out for the most of the film once they've reached the resort, leaving the focus firmly on the other three characters. What more, A.R. Rahman was credited to providing the movie music here, but try as hard as I can, I didn't catch anything that was remotely memorable in the soundtrack.

Couples Retreat comes with the standard messages of treasuring your loved ones, not taking them for granted and to always continue finding that romantic spark to spice up the relationship, but other than that, it's a tired comedy that has to be injected with cleverer ideas other than the usual frat boy sex jokes.

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