So sometimes the great joy of reviewing is that you are forced to watch a film that you necessarily don't want to watch and get a surprise. I was given Couples Retreat to watch and when I did, I got a little surprise, it wasn't as bad as I had thought.
That last couple see one more chance for themselves, Couples Retreat, a holiday that offers special counselling to bring couples back together, however they can't afford it, not unless they take the four couple special package, that's where their friends come in.
Persuading them to come on the holiday, they all begin to find their own reason for being there and problems rise to the surface in each relationship, but will they survive?
The film stars Vince Vaughn and Malin Akerman as the working couple, Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell as the couple having troubles in their marriage and trying to conceive, Faizon Love and Kali Hawk as the middle aged man and the much younger girl, and Jon Favreau and Kristin Davis as the couple almost living separate lives. Also starring are Jean Reno, Peter Serafinowicz and Temuera Morrison as those in charge of the island.
So the first thing to say about the film is the surprising fact that there's more to it than the typical American comedy, there's something to be said about relationships for the first part, and secondly there's some strong comedic moments rather than the standard stuff I was expecting. It actually becomes rather enjoyable, sometimes it pays not to listen to the critics, critics I'd listened to slated the film.
The film really does start off strong, and the comedy build up with all the characters still at home dealing with their relationships as they are and the clinically efficient and business-like couple presenting the idea of the Couples Retreat is rather funny. It raised some of the biggest laughs for me in the film, because from here on in the comedy does start to slip and becomes a little less clever, at times resorting to the usual poor set-ups and base humour.
There is something more here though, and we see it coming out during some of the sessions with the couples and their stories. The best and most interesting for me is the relationship between Dave, played by Vince Vaughn, and Ronnie, played by Malin Akerman.
While I think that the couple struggling to conceive, played by Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell have some of the best humour and Bateman gives the best, most natural performance, it's the Dave and Ronnie couple who have the strongest storyline.
When they first arrive in the retreat they think everything is fine, but it's through the counselling that the troubles begin to out, and it raises some interesting thoughts, is it the counselling that brings it out? Have the problems always been there and masked by the rush of everyday life? There are some interesting thoughts that are touched on, but they never really are explored that much, although the story arcs of the relationships play out, and not all successfully.
Some of the couples are very stereotypical, and while that drives the story forward and helps the story arcs of each of the couples, a little more depth to them would have been rather interesting and given the stories a little more depth.
Comedy wise, it's not just stuck to the opening sequences at home, there are laughs to be had in the rest of the film and despite the yoga instructor sequences seeming a bit shallow to begin with and some really base and uncomfortable jokes, the character comes into his own later on and provides some better comedy.
It is a rather satisfying ending to the film and the characters tie up nicely, even if one of the relationships fail. Of course it's still a safe ending I feel, but it's a pretty good attempt to bring something a little darker to the standard American comedy, and I have to tip my hat to that.
Finally, I have to bring up the question of just what is that final scene about? If there were a few ounces of intelligence in the rest of the film they certainly aren't in the post-credits scene.
The picture is quite dark to begin with and in a few scenes there I was struggling to see some of the detail and finer points on the iTouch, but come the island the picture was much better, and even during the darker scenes there the picture was perfectly viewable. The scenes in the sea during the day looked spectacular.
iTouch stereo with embedded earphones
As usual with the iTouch, stereo is the only option. It sounds crisp and clear, and there is a little depth to the sound.
Alternate Ending – Back in Chicago, Gag Reel, Therapy's Greatest Hits, Extended Scenes, Deleted Scenes, Paradise Found: Filming in Bora Bora, Behind the Yoga
Alternate Ending – Back in Chicago
The alternate ending doesn't really feel like an alternate, just a tagged on the end scene. It's very Hollywood and has no real substance or point to it, well cut out.
There's not that much in the gag reel which is a surprising thing considering that it was a comedy and through some of the features on the end there seems a much closer connection with the actors. Still, there are some funny moments.
Therapy's Greatest Hits
This is perhaps funnier than the gag reel and far more insightful than a lot of the featurettes. This allows us to see how the actors behave during improvisational scenes from those playing the psychotherapists.
Dinner at Eden
Kali Hawk's extra lines in here are rather funny and great to see the others react to her character.
Lucy's Massage / Jennifer's Journey
A few lines that were cut from the final version of each of these scenes, and nothing really worthwhile.
Joey Cheats / Lucy Cheats
It's interesting to see this couple cheating on each other, something that isn't really seen in the film, and it gives the relationship a little more desperation and edge.
Backyard BBQ / Girls Eat Cake / Guys on the Couch / Trudy the Dominatrix / The Otter
These scenes were definitely not really needed in the film, and perhaps not even on the DVD.
Elbows on Tables
A nice little scene that gives Peter Serafinowicz another cool moment with some great lines, he is one of the best characters in the film.
Don't Go Left
A scene that explains something in the film that skipped over, but it just doesn't work at all.
Paradise Found: Filming in Bora Bora
This is boring beyond belief. They just keep on about how wonderful Bora Bora is and there's just no real substance to it.
Behind the Yoga
A little featurette that looks into the yoga sessions that were created for the film, a little of the training to discover the poses they used, and more of the excellent Carlos Ponce.
There are some nice messages in Couples Retreat, but a lot of it is lost in the often standard humour that misses the mark so much. Peter Serafinowicz and Carlos Ponce are the prizes of this film with their characters, and the scenes of the counselling and the early pre-retreat scenes are perhaps the best of the film.
Some good material and possibilities in the film are lost to some very inane and unintelligent comedy, but if you're looking to switch off your brain and just get lost in some entertainment with a few nice happy moments at the end, then this film will give you just that.
I just can't help but feel so much was wasted, the potential in the story and the potential of some strong actors.