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couples_retreat23The guys from “Swingers” have finally grown up. Thirteen years after their break out hit Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau are teamed up again but this time around the zoot suits have been left in storage and the hipster lingo is a thing of the past. In “Couples Retreat” (sic) the boys are old hipsters with wives, kids, martial dysfunction and a group of friends teetering on the cusp of major mid life crisis. They’re no longer “money,” to use the “Swingers” lingo, but they’re in for some major change.

The story focuses on four couples Dave and Ronnie (Vince Vaughn and Malin Akerman), Shane and Trudy (Faizon Love and Kali Hawk), Jason and Cynthia (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell), and Joey and Lucy (Jon Favreau and Kristin Davis) who go to an island resort called Eden West. This isn’t Sandals or Hedonism, however, couples at Eden West are expected to follow a rigorous relationship building course, that is equal parts Tai Chi, couples therapy and Art of War, taught by Marcel (Jean Reno). Participation is not optional, and of course, each of the couples learns something new about themselves and their bond.

“Couples Retreat” annoyed me for many reasons. First off, when did it become OK for Hollywood to completely ignore the lowly apostrophe? The title should be “Couple’s Retreat,” but apparently no one at Universal (or Vaughn or Favreau) owns a copy of “The Elements of Style.” Punctuation, however, is just the beginning of the problems with “Couple Retreat.”

The movie starts promisingly. The cast is likeable enough—Vaughn, Favreau, Jason Bateman, Faison Love, Malin Ackerman and the two Kristens, Davis and Bell—and the opening half-an-hour pleases in a low-fi way. As a set up to the main action—the trip to the Bora Bora—we’re treated to a mostly well written and interesting introduction to the characters. And Vaughn and Ackerman’s youngest son is hilarious.  As I say, it’s mostly good stuff that sets up the relationship comedy that is to follow, except that once they hit the island at 40ish minute mark the movie slows to a slow grind. A grating slow grind.

What is it about comedies set on islands Remember “Club Paradise”? “Club Dread”? Sunshine and sky blue water seem to be comedy killers (except for “Gilligan’s Island” of course!). It’s certainly the case here. The post island scenes are only intermittently amusing, slowed by therapy scenes that don’t deliver big laughs and predictable relationship “development” that should be heartfelt but feels forced.

High points include Carlos Ponce as the randy yoga instructor Salvadore and the scenes with the kids that bookend the film. Low points include every minute the usually reliable Jean Reno is on screen and the beyond shameless product placement for Applebee’s and Guitar Hero.

“Couples Retreat” feels like a movie of missed opportunities. It’s not funny enough to be called a comedy and when the best relationship advice on offer is about finding the right person to take to Applebee’s, it can’t be called insightful either.

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