Couples Retreat and, if you have an ounce of sense, so too will you. Retreat from this movie, and retreat as fast as your little legs will carry you. I didn’t actually intend to see this film this week. I intended to see Terry Gilliam’s Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, but events conspired against me, or it was the Gods, who haven’t liked me ever since I put a red T-shirt into a wash with my one good white shirt and then shook my fist at them. (It was quite a fist; it was my only serious white shirt.) I rather expected Couples Retreat to be bad, just from having seen the poster — ‘it may be paradise, but it’s no vacation’ — but this bad? I think I would have been shocked had I not, at least, managed to doze for quite a bit of it. And I thank the Gods for that.
Written by Vince Vaughn and John Favreau, possibly from the bottom of a barrel — ‘hey, John, what’s that noise?’, ‘well, Vince, I think you’ll find it’s us, scraping’ — the basic deal has four couples going to a gorgeous getaway island where marital counselling is also offered. The island is called ‘Eden’ but it is not the Eden from Antichrist, although one rather wishes it were. That would give them all something to think about. Anyway, the couples are played by Vince Vaughn and Malin Akerman; John Favreau and Kristin Davis; Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell; Faizon Love and Kali Hawk …look, we’re busy people, right? Well, I’m not particularly, but you might be, so I’ll just list the reasons why you should not see this film and if, by the end, it still sounds attractive to you, you cannot say I didn’t try my best. Here goes:
• In one of the films opening, humour-defining scenes the toddler son of one of the couples does a pee in a display toilet in a bathroom store. Cue absolutely no hilarity (actually, one guy at the press screening did laugh, but he may have been from Nuts magazine).
• The wives are all bland, humourless and stupid, as are the husbands. And they all think they are not getting enough sex. Like, who is?
• No couple has any conversation or anything interesting to say. The ladies all look good in bikinis, though, and they have bought many different bikinis, some of which sparkle.
• The black couple — Love and Hawk — are such a token black couple, so obviously included to cut through the white whining, that they practically have a neon sign flashing ‘token blacks’ over their heads. On the poster they are so far in the background they are almost not in it. I am not black and yet I’m offended.
• The men leer at women young enough to be their daughters while the women ogle the hot yoga teacher (Carlos Ponce …seriously), who does have quite a bulge in his Speedos, but I think we can assume it’s wadding. You can’t work on a movie like this and feel any kind of excitement. You just can’t.
• Love is very, very fat and is the only character made to strip off completely, thereby giving us the opportunity to laugh at him. I am not fat — hey, I’m just big-boned! — and yet I am offended.
• The narrative is clunking and lazy, there to get characters from A to B without any respect for coherence or us, the audience. Love, for example, has to borrow money at the beginning of the film, yet he can somehow afford to come on this tropical holiday? If I had the energy, I’d feel insulted, but all that being offended has rather worn me out.
• There are masturbatory jokes, including one that effectively amounts to an innocent female masseur being sexually harassed. This was presumably devised after John and Vince had scraped away the bottom of the barrel, and were working underneath.
• All the therapists are nasty bullies, having trained where exactly? The Nasty Bully wing at the Tavistock?
• All problems — such as they are — are solved by a smooch at the end.
• In one of the films closing, humour-defining scenes toddler son does a Number Two in that display toilet. Cue absolutely no hilarity (bar Nuts).
I really can’t bring myself to devote any more time to this movie — and I say that as a person who isn’t very busy — so let’s just leave it at this. I should just add, though, that in its opening weekend in America it went straight to the top of the box office and made $35.3 million. Now, if that doesn’t depress you, you can’t say I didn’t try my best.