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Malin Akerman and Vince Vaughn star in Couples Retreat, a comedy about four Midwestern couples who take a holiday on a tropical island resort. Sunshine and therapy ensue.

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures/Copyright: © 2009 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

1 out of 4 stars


Couples Retreat

  • Directed by Peter Billingsley
  • Written by Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Dana Fox
  • Starring Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Kristin Davis, Malin Akerman
  • Classification: PG

Here's the title: Couples Retreat. And here's the review: Couples, Retreat. Yep, just find the verb, treat it as a command, and vamoose, unless you harbour an abiding curiosity about how eternally long 100 minutes can feel. Let me explain, and be assured: I'll keep it brief.

First, some quick background. Have you noticed that Hollywood romantic comedies and horny college kids share the same fondness for beachfront vacations, and for much the same reason? In both cases, whenever the amorous script runs dry, there's always a fall-back plan - just ogle all the exposed skin, the babes in bikinis and/or hunks in Speedos. The Heartbreak Kid recently took advantage of this holiday plan, as did ForgettingSarah Marshall . Each had arid patches, but nothing compared to the vast expanses here. So don't be fooled by its South Pacific setting - this is the Sahara of scripts.

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Liam Lacey on Couples Retreat Watch Globe film critic Liam Lacey's 60-second video reviews.

Even the preamble is windy. Most failed comedies at least get the set-up right, but these establishing frames don't "establish"; instead, they huff and puff before finally getting around to revealing what anyone who's peeked at the trailer already knows. Four couples. The one couple having domestic woes convince the other three to accompany them on a trip to "Eden" for a week of sun, fun and marital therapy. I won't lie to you: There is sun and there is therapy.

There are also scenes, the disjointed kind that wander off aimlessly in the vague hope of finding a movie, not to mention a laugh. No need to bore you with the swimming-with-sharks howler, or the dry-humping-with-the-yoga-instructor delight. No need because, once again, the trailer has done my work for me, and with refreshing commercial candour - the promised lameness is truly delivered. Nor must we dwell on the his-and-hers massage sequence, where the search for comedy sees a sexually frustrated guy seeking relief in shiatsu. Something comes up under that sheet, but it ain't comedy.

I do, however, wish to dwell a little on the strip-down-to-your-undies scene, if only because it speaks volumes about the starkly different - some might say hypocritically different - aesthetic demands placed on the male and female principals in this flick. The actresses are Kristin Davis, Malin Akerman, Kristin Bell and Kali Hawk. Each is fit, attractive, and looks mighty fetching in her undies, or a bikini, or the teensy frocks preferred by romantic comedies on vacation.

Now consider the men: Jason Bateman, Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau and Faizon Love. Each is past his physical prime and, with the possible exception of Bateman, palpably unfit; in fact, stripped down to their undies, they look like escalating balls of rotundity. If "fatty" were a Latin noun, these guys could be its declension. Does their appearance matter? Clearly, appearance matters on the other side of the gender fence. So, c'mon boys, play fair: When the humour goes missing in action, and all that's left is exposed skin, at least give the poor audience some equal-opportunity ogling time.

Speaking of boys, when they were a younger and slimmer couple, Vaughn and Favreau collaborated to make Swingers , an amusing if minor film at the time but a comic masterpiece when measured by this shrunken yardstick. Seems they've done some retreating of their own. Admittedly, the ending here contains a valuable nugget, delivered by a happy camper somewhere east of Eden, who pronounces: "We should try to have fun." If so, we should try harder to avoid not having fun. Remember that title, and heed its command.

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Film critic

Rick Groen is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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