The Swingers have officially grown up. Well, sorta.
It is the same Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau who wrote, produced and starred in "Couples Retreat," but of course they're not playing Trent and Mike, but Dave and Joey, a couple of married schlubs who get roped into what seems like the perfect vacation spot for couples. We of course, know better.
The vacation is the idea of Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell), who run their lives like they're corporations, complete with PowerPoint presentations breaking down whether they should get divorced or not.
As a last ditch effort to save their marriage, they implore their friends to come with them on holiday, including the recently-divorced Shane (Faizon Love, in full mid-life crisis mode) who totes his 20-year-old girlfriend Trudy (Kali Hawk) along for the ride.
When they arrive, they find paradise alright, but under the iron fist of a totalitarian regime. Each activity is structured rigidly (beginning with 6 a.m. therapy sessions), and are mandatory.
So our gang, however reluctantly, agrees, and hijinx ensue.
Vaughn's signature rapid-fire comedy is on full display here, whether his son is peeing in a display toilet at the hardware store, or he's in the ocean with lemon sharks (which are nonthreatening to people) circling him.
The film has flashes, but never really fires on all cylinders. Each couple has its own issues: Dave neglects the needs of his wife Ronnie (Malin Ackerman); Joey and Lucy ("Sex and the City" star Kristin Davis) have been together since high school and are each looking to have affairs; Jason and Cynthia do plenty of talking, but don't relate to each other emotionally; and Shane and Trudy are bridging the generation gap.
It's dealing with those issues where the film finds its stride.
The laughs are spotty. For every joke or bit that hits, there seem to be two that miss. Highlights include an overeager yoga instructor whose antics draw laughs, but is written like a sitcom character any time he's not thrusting or mashing into our heroes' wives, and therapy sessions that only seem to make things worse.
Jean Reno ("The Professional") makes a rather odd appearance as Marcel, the resort's founder, who tries to instill a quasi-spiritual sensibility to the mostly-skeptical couples.
Add to it a snooty concierge, a rather disastrous "Guitar Hero" duel, and an ill-concieved trip to the other side of the island, where singles gather, and you have a mash of comedy cliche and pop-culture silliness.
Overall "Couples Retreat" is a middling comedy that at times mines the comedic gold that is married life, but in staying true to its formula-vacation meltdown-it sometimes betrays its character and message, especially in the film's conclusion, where Shane confronts his wife in a much-too-convenient finale.
In trying to have its cake and eat it too, "Couples Retreat" ends up a slightly sugary but soppy mess.
Rating: 3 Yaps (of 5)
Read Chris' take on "Couples Retreat."