Four Midwestern couples embark on a journey to a tropical island resort. While one of the couples is there to work on their marriage, the other three set out to jet ski, spa and enjoy some fun in the sun.
They soon discover that participation in the resort's couples therapy is not optional. Suddenly, their group-rate vacation comes at a price.
There is one scene fairly early in 'Couples Retreat' that easily sums up the experience of sitting through this unfunny drek, it even smells like a preemptive apology from all those involved. The level of comedic intelligence surrounding the entire vacation fantasy is also established in this one segment. While in the middle of a home improvement store, a little boy is suddenly discovered urinating into a showroom toilet. His father, Dave (Vince Vaughn), casually walks up to him and explains the mistake the boy has just made. As he picks his son up, a sympathetic and remorseful dad looks at a dumbfounded clerk and simply utters, "There's not a lot to say. Sorry about that."
The whole scenario practically smothers audience expectations by dispensing a joke that's more confusing and odd than cutely amusing. Almost as if to break the fourth wall, Vaughn looks directly into the camera and requests forgiveness from all the poor saps willing to watch this. Considering his last two movies ('Four Christmases' and 'Fred Claus'), it's possible his admission of regret extends beyond this deplorable escapade. While those depressing holiday treats are an embarrassing smudge in Vaughn's career, at least their stories were reasonably comprehensible. 'Couple Retreat', on the other hand, is a confusing mess reaching for the most artificial of marital problems.
Maybe, just maybe, we could forgive the other two, but this, this will need some serious therapy (if not anger management) as we talk about the gut-wrenching feelings of perplexity and nausea swirling through my head like anger sharks. And more importantly, as we sift through all the plot holes in each couple's marriage issues - which come completely out of leftfield - maybe we can also determine the actual target audience. With a story about eight adult friends going to an island retreat to reconnect with their spouses, the sometimes it-could-happen-in-real-life jokes are obviously for the mature crowd. But who are all the other jokes catering to - who actually laughs at a little boy mistaking a fake toilet for a real one. And for your information Mr. Vaughn and Jon Favreau, who not only star in the movie but also take writing credit, pitching tents were funnier ten years ago. Today, not so much.
Joining this dead-end vacation is Jason Bateman and Faizon Love, and they both come off as slightly more annoying than appealing or sympathetic. Jean Reno as the counseling guru and owner of the resort Marcel is a complete waste, offering no form of amusement whatsoever. Keeping the comedy afloat are the lovely wives played by Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell, and Kristin Davis. But it seems that they too are used more for facial reactions and reminders of their husbands' idiocy than for anything else. Other than a few scattered blink-and-you'll-miss-em one-liners, 'Couples Retreat' doesn't offer much to maintain interest, and a quickie divorce is likelier to bring a happier ending.
Well, is there anything worth salvaging in this comedy? Possibly, but it's not much. (The beautiful women in bikinis are most definitely a plus.) But with such a strong ensemble cast, it's surprising that the humor is so thin and irregular, hindered greatly by a nonsensical script with a shallow view of the woes and highs of matrimony. 'Couples Retreat' also marks the directorial debut of Peter Billingsley, who will always be remembered as Ralphie from 'A Christmas Story.' Billingsley does okay with this awful script, but his contributions to the film also very workmanlike, offering nothing out of the ordinary.
At least, it's not as bad as 'All About Steve' or 'I Love You, Beth Cooper,' though I'm not sure how much of a compliment that really is. The occasional chuckle and breezy storyline makes for an easy one-time diversion, but in the end, this is one piece of paradise not worth revisiting.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'Couples Retreat' to Blu-ray on a Region Free BD50 disc housed in a two-disc keepcase with a shiny slipcover. While the first contains the film and all supplemental material, the second disc is a Digital Copy for portable devices and exclusive to owners of HD media. After a series of internet connections related to BD-Live are established, viewers are greeted with the standard menu options showing motion clips of the movie.
'Couples Retreat' lands on Blu-ray with a very beautiful 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1) that could easily be considered demo-worthy once the couples arrive on the island. With the incredibly gorgeous beaches of Bora Bora serving as lovely panoramic backdrops, the transfer comes with many scenes worthy of showing off one's hi-def theater system.
From the cool blues of the ocean water to Marcel's bright red garments, colors are bold, vivid, and accurately saturated with terrific variance in the palette. Facial complexions are natural and appropriate to the hot climate while exposing terrific lifelike texture. Except for a couple of negligible soft scenes, the picture is razor-sharp, with extraordinary definition in various objects, the architecture of the resort, and numerous sequences where actors are surrounded by tree foliage. Black levels are rich and inky, while shadow details maintain wonderful visibility in the darkest portions. Contrast is slightly on the warmer side, which is intentional to reflect the sweltering heat of the island resort.
On a side note, I noticed some heavy ringing in almost all outdoor daylight sequences. But was unable to detect any evidence of edge enhancement, I can only assume the distraction to be an optical effect made by the high-contrast photography and not a shortcoming of the encode.
For this "paradise" getaway, Universal Studios gives the box office hit the DTS-HD Master Audio treatment. Although not as impressive as the video, the track does its job by providing the movie with a fun and entertaining soundtrack.
Most everything is maintained in the front speakers with strong vocalization in the center and smooth separation between the channels. Dynamic range is sharp and wide, delivering good clarity and definition in the lossless mix. Low-frequency effects are not very abundant, but when certain scenes require depth, bass adds some appreciable weight and force. For a movie set on a tropical island, rear activity doesn't offer much, except some light bleeds from the musical tracks. Towards the end, when all eight friends find themselves in a thunderstorm and at the singles resort, there is a bit more action going on in the background, yet it never really feels immersive or wholly convincing. Overall, it's an enjoyable and adequate track for a comedy.
For this Blu-ray edition of 'Couples Retreat', Universal provides the box office comedy hit with a decent but boring collection of bonus material. While the entire package is a repeat of the supplements found on its DVD counterpart, this hi-def version also adds a few extras.
Peter Billingsley makes his directorial debut with a movie written by and starring Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau ('Swingers'). Unfortunately, 'Couples Retreat' is a lame and unfunny comedy misfire. This Blu-ray offers an impressive picture, adequate audio, and a decent supplement package. Fans will be greatly satisfied with the purchase, but others will want to rent this before making a long-term commitment.