I was pretty excited about Couples Retreat when I first heard about it. The cast is killer. I’m a big fan of Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau and Jason Bateman and putting them all together seems like it would be comedy gold. Plus there’s plenty of eye candy in the ladies (Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell and Kristin Davis). I don’t mean to sound like a total pig, I’m just not familiar with them beyond Watchmen, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and hating Sex in the City. I didn’t know anything about Faizon Love or his partner in the movie.
In the end it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. There were definitely funny parts with each person doing their shtick (Bateman’s the neurotic, Vaughn talks fast and Favreau plays a jerk again). I did like that Vaughn actually comes off as a pretty good guy as opposed to say his character in Old School. But there were a few things that kind of put me out of the movie. It definitely feels like a bunch of friends wanted to make a movie together with beautiful women in an exotic locale.
Another problem comes from the fact that, with the exception for Favreau and Davis, none of the couples seem to be appropriately matched age-wise. Vaughn and Ackerman have been together for eight years and I just barely buy it. Even worse is Bell who may never not look like a high school detective whose show I never watched.
The plot also seems to be a little all over the place. They go to a resort that’s supposed to be a regular resort but then turns out to be a full-on couples place, which everyone but Bateman and Bell are bummed about as they were the ones who came up with the idea in the first place (I thought they were actually playing a trick on the others who seem to have more problems than them). The relationship trouble all flies, but then there’s this whole thing with a party island and everyone going there and a really ripped yoga instructor (that did have me laughing). Anyway, it was a fun enough movie, but didn’t have a quickness that I wanted from it.
Interestingly enough, this documentary following a series of stand-up comics headed up by Vaughn did offer the snappiness I wanted from Couples Retreat. The comics are Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst and Sebastian Maniscalco and they’re all pretty great. Instead of showing full sets, we get snippets of their acts as they travel through 30 cities. We also get walk-ons from Vaughn, Justin Long, Dwight Yoakam, Favreau and Couples Retreat director (and Ralphie from A Christmas Story) Peter Billingsley.
Aside from showcasing a great group of comedians the movie does a few other things that I really appreciated and bumped it up from being just a great stand-up movie. First off, one of the guys makes a really interesting point about stand-up nowadays: guys headlining tours like they are were getting huge and starring in sitcoms in the 80s and 90s, but now they’re struggling to survive (one of the guys was a waiter leading up to the tour). I also think it’s cool to see how positive Vaughn is throughout the movie. Sure he’s got his quick, biting sense of humor, but he’s also really supportive of the guys after they have a lousy set. It’s also fun to see him geek at different times.
But what really elevates the movie is how it deals with Hurricane Katrina, which hit while they were touring. In fact, they had to change a few venues because of it and donated the proceeds from those shows. They also went to a camp ground acting as a shelter some of the displaced people. I give the director and editor kudos for portraying this honestly, with the guys not really wanting to do it and then going and enjoying the experience. It’s just more honest that way. Good stuff all around.