Couples Retreat (2009)

(On TV, July 2015) The best and worst thing about Couples Retreat is how resolutely predictable it can be.  A fairly traditional (albeit PG-13-rated glancing at R) Hollywood comedy about matrimonial reconciliation, it relies heavily on the comic persona of its lead actors: Jason Bateman plays the straight-man with a bit of unpleasantness lurking at the edge of his personality; Vince Vaughn plays the overgrown-frat boy loudmouth; Jon Favreau is a lout… and so on.  Characters are established early and seldom deviate from their broad personalities, the reconciliatory ending is a foregone conclusion and the gags along the way tend to be fairly obvious.  Much of the details are inane bordering on moronic (I’m still figuring out why Guitar Hero would need a dedicated salesman) but the film goes have the “tropical retreat romantic comedy” atmosphere in the tradition of Just Go With It, Blended or Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  Even though most jaded viewers may not appreciate the leisurely pace of characters on holidays, there’s a little bit of vicarious living in spending an hour or so in tropical settings.  The main players are up to themselves: Bateman and Vaughn don’t really stretch their persona, but Jean Reno makes for a fun self-help guru while Peter Serafinowicz has a small but hilarious role as a demanding host.  All of the film’s slight qualities don’t manage to make it stand out as anything but a middle-of-the road kind of comedy.  There was potential for something a bit more unnerving (a comparison between trailer and final film suggests that at least one risqué subplot was cut out –although a reference to realized infidelity stays in the film and comes as a bit of a surprise.) but in the end embraces traditional values.  And yet, as predictable Couples Retreat can be, it’s also comforting in a way.

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