0

Not so great getaway
'Couples Retreat' fails to deliver laughs

Couples Retreat (PG-13)

1/2 star out of 4

In the space of two torturous, overlong hours, Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau have nearly depleted the considerable hipster cool capital they amassed well over a decade ago with "Swingers." For Favreau, he's lucky he chose not to also direct this movie; it might have led some to think his superb "Iron Man" was just dumb luck.

If it were Adam Sandler and Tim Allen or even Will Ferrell and Jack Black as the two leads instead of Vaughn and Favreau, it might have been easier to accept but no less easier to watch. This is one horrific film.

Former struggling actor buddies Vaughn and Favreau have starred in their fair share of clunkers in the past but could always escape direct blame by pointing the finger at the filmmakers. That can't happen here. Not only did they co-write this monstrosity, Vaughn co-produced it with his sister Victoria. This is their turkey and they're going to spend a lot of their future free time apologizing for it.

Regular guys Dave (Vaughn) and Joey (Favreau) are in different states of marital disrepair. Dave and wife Ronnie (Malin Akerman) have two boys and are up to their necks in work, remodeling and not enough romance. Joey and his high school sweetheart Lucy (Kristin Davis) have long given up on love and are waiting until their daughter ships off to Stanford before getting divorced.

Even though they aren't thrilled with the current state of their domestic lives, Dave and Joey avoid bellyaching about it. Their rigid and uptight friend Jason (Jason Bateman hitting a career low) complains enough for all three of them combined plus fourth crony Shane (Faizon Love) who is already divorced and dating a 20-year-old party girl.

Jason and his equally analytical wife Cynthia (Kristen Bell) calmly announce that because of problems conceiving a child, they too are considering a divorce. In a last gasp attempt to stay together (and to save some bucks), they pitch a group vacation to "Eden," an all-inclusive tropical resort. The catch: while there, everyone must undergo two hours a day worth of "couples skill building" which is New Age speak for contentious, white-knuckle, teeth-gnashing therapy.

Starting at the 30-minute mark and never stopping for the remainder of the movie is a repeated, three-part storytelling loop from hell. There's morning therapy followed by an embarrassing afternoon group activity capped off with collective post-sundown bickering. Everyone is in paradise and all they can do is grow increasingly angry and depressed.

When the characters aren't screaming and pouting, the screenwriters include them in a string of squirm-inducing moments of alleged comic relief, most of which include bad taste, bodily fluid and human anatomy jokes.

Performing the duties of director is Vaughn's childhood actor friend and frequent behind-the-scenes collaborator Peter Billingsley who will certainly take much of the blame for this fiasco. Billingsley pulls the trigger, but it is Vaughan who chooses the targets and collectively they never once hit the metaphorical broad side of a comic barn.

This isn't one of those "on the fence, it might be OK" types of movies. It has jumped the tracks, landed in a ditch and has burst into a mushroom cloud. It's "Land of the Lost"/"Year One" level bad. Your orders are to turn face and immediately retreat from these couples. (Universal)