When a group of entertainers bond and have a good time working on projects together, it is easy to forget that sometimes the making of the movie was probably more fun for them than the watching of the movie is for the audience. One of the earliest manifestations of this phenomenon was with the Rat Pack and the making of the original Ocean’s Eleven. Frank and the boys were happy to make a caper movie in Vegas, where they could film during the day and still do shows at night. From that point on, the movie-going audience has endured projects that served the interests of the group more than the people paying to see them on-screen. Young Guns allowed the Brat Pack to play cowboys and indians; Mystery Men was the height of Ben Stiller’s influence; and Anchorman was Will Ferrell’s movie of excess. That is not to say that these movies were completely bad or unenjoyable; just that they were more about the people making them than anything else.
Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau avoided this for the most part after hitting it big in Swingers. True, Made was a step back; but each has proven the ability to make good movies beyond the easy stuff. Peter Billingsley has avoided the fate of many child actors and become a successful adult in Hollywood (albeit behind the camera). He helped Vaughn and Favreau when they first came to Hollywood and the three have been friends ever since. So it makes sense that if Vaughn and Favreau wanted to make a movie in the island that they would make their buddy the director as a way to bring him along.
Couples Retreat focuses on four friends that have different relationships. Favreau is in an unhappy marriage with Kristin Davis and is waiting for their daughter to head to college before getting a divorce. Faison Love (The Replacements) is a man newly divorced and trying to be a sugar daddy for a young 20-year-old. Vaughn is married to Malin Akerman (The Proposal) and has a normal family. Jason Bateman and Kirsten Bell are Type-A adults that are married and are worried about losing their marriage. It is this fear that drives them to convince their friends to join them on an island-based couples retreat. What follows is fairly predictable wrapped up in too neat of an ending.
What was disappointing to me was the amount of great casting between the leads and supporting characters that failed to produce a home-run hit. Each actor had interesting individual moments, but nothing that could be threaded together for a fully satisfying movie. I would have felt slightly cheated had I not used a free movie pass to see it in the afternoon.
My advice: Wait for cable; bypass DVD – there is a scene after all of the credits, if you make it that long…