Remember the first time you saw "Swingers?" That was that classic John Favreau and Vince Vaughn movie about being single and dating in L.A. in the mid-90s. It was one of the funniest movies I've ever seen and still a crown jewel in my DVD collection. What made that so good was the chemistry between the two main actors and their fast, improvised dialogue. Since then I've been hoping that they would recapture that magic and so far they've fallen flat (they did come close with 2001's "Made.") "Couples Retreat" should be held up as an example of how a movie can become so bad so fast. The first act of the film is hilarious, the second act isn't very good and the third act is just terrible. The story follows four couples in paradise as they all work out their marital issues at a...you guessed it...couples retreat. Not a bad premise for a movie. The script was written by Favreau and Vaughn and the movie was directed by Peter Billingsley (Ralphie from "A Christmas Story"). It has Jason Bateman and Faizon Love ("Elf") to round out the comedic husbands of the couples. It's got the makings of a great comedy but man, I don't know what happened. It might have something to do with trimming the movie from an R-rating to a PG-13 in hopes to broaden the audience (still might be a little uncomfortable to watch with teens). But it seemed like most of the problem boiled down to a lost script that didn't know where to go or how to wrap it up. Such a disappointment since the charisma, quick dialogue and typical stereotypes of men were funny before they get to the tropical paradise. But then the scenarios go from funny to ridiculous to unbelievable to just stupid. It felt like those skits you see on "SNL" some times that are really funny but then suddenly aren't as you realize they go on too long and trying too hard to find a way to end it? That's what happens here. Except instead of ending the skit on a quotable catch phrase like they would on TV, they end it in a resolution that you would expect to see on a Soap Opera...cheesy, convenient and foolish. Notice I haven't yet mentioned the women who make up the wives, played by Malin Akerman ("Watchmen"), Kristin Davis ("Sex and the City") and the stunningly beautiful, albeit elf-like, Kristen Bell ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall"). That's because this script didn't give them any personality or unique characteristics. You could have switched the actresses with their parts halfway through the movie and I don't think anyone would've noticed. I don't know if that's because they're not talented actresses or if the script was written purely as a vehicle to showcase the men and use the ladies purely as scenery. Now I might be wrong with all this since as I was leaving the theater I did hear other people saying how funny they thought it was; but I don't think I am because I could hear a pin drop in that theater through the whole second half so they either don't get out very often or just laugh on the inside.
Couples Retreat (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: C-