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Couples Retreat
(2009)

Vince, Vince, Vince. What happened to you? Once upon a time, Mr. Vaughn would stretch himself, as interested in straight drama as comedy. And, when it came to comedy, there was promising material in the mix. His last decent starring role was in the underrated The Break-up, seven years ago. The actor now appears content to subsist on lame Christmas movies and ensembles that shift the focus from his lack of effort. Couples Retreat is the latter.

Which isn’t to say Vaughn’s not watchable, in an increasingly beefy, fast-talking, sub-John Cusack kind of way. But his choices of material are effluent, requiring him to do nothing but show up and bounce off a couple of his best buds (in this case, stalwart Jon Favreau – whose beefiness is boundless).

This time out, he can’t pass the buck. He takes writing credit with buddy Favreau and Dana Fox (he had a story credit on The Break-up, but that was licked into shape but two other scribes).

The cast in this “four couples go to an island retreat where hilarity results from their attempts to mend their relationships” is solid enough. And the ensemble is fine; Vaughn and lovely Malin Akerman; Jason Bateman (playing a highly-strung type!) and Kristen Bell; Favreau and Kristin Davis (the best comic timing of the ladies); Faizon Love (very funny, although definitely taking the token black friend role) and Kali Hawk.  

The location is suitably idyllic looking (Eden East, it’s called), and the ladies look very nice in bikinis (the guys most certainly don’t, although for Love this is a plot point, and have put zero effort into their beach bodies).

Added to the mix are Peter Serafinowicz as the camp compere, Jean Reno as the speedos-clad love guru, Temuera Morrison (in little more than a walk-on) and – looting most of the meager laughs – Carlos Ponce (really?!) as creepy Adonis Salvadore.

As is usually the case with all-star Hollywood comedies, they’ve rushed a first draft into production full of obvious, laboured gags (most revolving around nobs, or intimating at a very safe exploration of spousal infidelity) and culminating in a message so ham-fistedly affirmative it may cause you to scream in pain. For added cruelty, Vaughn and Favreau appear to think that a legitimate set piece climax for a movie is a Guitar Hero tournament.  

*1/2

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