In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_6wh5wlqfopjzco9yww3bztgtxeb

Welcome to Me

Since moving onto the big screen, however, Kristen Wiig has added a nuanced dramatic edge to her skill set that finds her digging deeper inside…

Thumb_ride

Ride

Helen Hunt directs herself in this story of a brittle New York book editor who begins healing old wounds by learning how to surf.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Far Flunger Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Couples Retreat

Couples Retreat Movie Review
  |  

"Couples Retreat" tells the story of four troubled couples and how they're healed by sitcom formulas. Why are they troubled? Because the script says so. It contains little comedy, except for free-standing one-liners, and no suspense, except for the timing of the obligatory reconciliation. It doesn't even make you think you'd like to visit its island paradise.

The couples are apparently all from Buffalo Grove, which supplies nothing visual except for a T-shirt. Three of them think they're reasonably happy, but their friends Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) beg them to join them for a week at a resort devoted to healing relationships (if four couples go, it's half price).

Jason and Cynthia are anguished because they haven't had a child. The other couples are Dave (Vince Vaughn) and Ronnie (Malin Akerman); Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis), and Shane (Faizon Love) and Trudy (Kali Hawk). Their troubles: (1) Parenting duties distract from romance; (2) Joey's wandering eye; (3) Shane has split from wife and is dating a 20-year-old bimbo.

They fly to the Eden resort, which uses locations on Bora Bora, a truly enchanted place that's reduced to the beach-party level. Eden is run by Monsieur Marcel (Jean Reno), a martial-arts mystic, and managed by Cstanley (Peter Serafinowicz), who explains his name is spelled with a "C." Other staff include Salvadore (Latin pop singer Carlos Ponce), doubling for a model on the cover of a lesser romance novel.

The formula itself might have supported hilarity, but the story lacks character specifics. Each couple behaves relentlessly as an illustration of their problem. The movie depends for excitement on a shark attack during a scuba-diving exercise, featuring clueless sharks, inflamed by the smell of blood, who circle aimlessly going "boo!" Salvadore charms the wives somewhat ambiguously with his oiled pecs and bottles of pineapple-rum drinks. The men don't bond as much as stand together onscreen and exchange bonding dialogue.

There is a twin resort named East Eden, which has all swinging singles, as opposed to troubled couples. It's a party scene every night; as nearly as I could tell, our four couples are the only clients on West Eden, so no wonder there was a 50 percent off deal, despite Cstanley's talk of the long waiting list.

Among the better things in "Couples Retreat," I count Vaughn's well-timed and smart dialogue; the eccentricity of Love and Hawk in contrast to the cookie-cutter couples, and Serafinowicz's meticulous affectations, which suggest psychotropic medication.

The concluding scenes are agonizing in the way they march through the stages dictated by an ages-old formula. We know all four couples must arrive at a crisis. We know their situations must appear dire. We expect a transitional event during which they realize the true nature of their feelings. This is a wild party night at East Eden. We expect sincere confessions of deep feelings. And we know there must be a jolly conclusion that wraps everything up.

In the context of the film, the jolly conclusion must be seen to be believed. Were all the transitional events anticipated, even planned, by the the all-seeing Monsieur Marcel? Marcel hands each couple an animal representing their true inner animal spirits. These figures are carved from a dark wood, which I deduced after seeing the second, third and fourth animals. The first was a rabbit, which looked like nothing else than a chocolate bunny. That would have been strange.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Thirtieth Anniversary of "A View to a Kill"

An essay on John Glen's 1985 Bond film, "A View to a Kill," in honor of its thirtieth anniversary.

Now, "Voyager": in praise of the Trekkiest "Trek" of all

As we mourn Abrams’ macho Star Trek obliteration, it’s a good time to revisit that most Star Trek-ian of accomplishme...

Notes on watching "Aliens" for the first time again, with a bunch of kids

Captain's log: eight fifth graders, one adult, one James Cameron movie.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus