What is so wonderful is that the movie’s humor feels so organic and unforced.
Leave it to Vince Vaughn to resurrect the adult comedy. This genre has been struggling for years and had almost become extinct, but Couples Retreat shows that grownups can be funny, too. The only comedies that seem to make it to the theaters today are either formulaic romantic comedies or flicks centered around young guys trying to get laid/get drugs. Couples Retreat, however, is almost an anomaly with the influx of Hollywood-produced romcoms that come out every year. It stars a group of actors that range from late 20s to early 40s, and doesn’t focus on the difficulty of finding love but on what to do once you have it.
The movie centers on a group of friends, four couples, who are all in different stages of marriage, each of which is facing its own struggles. Dave (Vince Vaughn) and Ronnie (Malin Akerman) are the couple with two kids who spend more time picking out tile than talking to each other. Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) are having trouble conceiving but are diligent in their research and preparation in hopes they might get lucky. Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis) are high school sweethearts who are as sexually charged as they were in high school, but not for one another. And Shane (Faizon Love) is recently divorced and dating a 20 year old who is exhausting Shane both physically and financially.
The couples decide to take a group vacation after Jason and Cynthia announce they are seriously considering a divorce and that this trip is their last chance at fixing their marriage. The other couples see the trip as a chance for some fun away from the stress of their daily lives. After they get to the island, they find out quickly that what was presented to them was not exactly what they signed up for.
The reason the movie works so well is that it was co-written by Vaughn and Favreau. Swingers was one of the best screenplays of the early 90s and Favreau once again shows off his talent for dialogue. Vaughn, on the other hand, is finally able to have some control before filming to inject his signature style of fast-thinking rants into the script. The reason the movie works is because these two men are writing a movie that they would want to see. The movie was directed by Vaughn’s close friend, Peter Billingsley (yes, Ralphie from A Christmas Story). Billingsley does a fine job letting the actors show off their respective talents and doesn’t get hung up on too much scenery or drama.
Speaking of actors, every performance in the film is wonderful and there are far too many to discuss here. Vaughn is the best he’s been since Wedding Crashers and shows a maturity that we haven’t seen from him in comedic roles before. Bateman is terrific, as always; there simply isn’t anything he can’t do. Here, though, we get to see real vulnerability similar to what he gave us in Juno. Bell gives a very subdued performance through most of the movie, but is terrific when she breaks out of her shell near the end.
What is so wonderful is that the movie’s humor feels so organic and unforced. The actors blend together and work off each other so well, there is not a dull or artificial moment. The movie strikes a perfect balance between comedy and seriousness and gives the audience a much-needed alternative to the flood of recycled comedies we get each year. | Matthew F. Newlin