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Published: Friday, 10/9/2009

Movie review: Couples Retreat **


Couples Retreat was made because of its sunny, sandy location, scenic Bora Bora. Judging from the light, cast members slept late and took it pretty easy, even in the "We rise at dawn" scenes.

Pals Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau team up again. They co-wrote this and still love working together, even though their banter isn't what it was in their Swingers days.

And they pitch in to help a pal behind the camera. Director Peter Billingsley, Ralphie in A Christmas Story, befriended them when they first got to Hollywood.

But are those reasons for making the movie, or excuses? Couples, a sputtering if sporadically amusing misfire, packed a lot of actors off to a pretty location and gave them nothing funny or deep to do.

Four couples - Vaughn and Malin Akerman, Favreau and Kristin Davis, Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell, and Faizon Love and Kali Hawk - are lured (they're friends) to Eden, a resort where Power-Point Type As (Bateman and Bell) hope to save their micro-managed marriage. Seeing as how they're not believable or likable as a couple, you wonder why.

Joey and Lucy (Favreau and Davis) are happily cheating on one another, seen in the TV commercials for the movie, scenes omitted from the finished film. Shane (Love) is newly divorced and trying to keep up with a 20-year-old girlfriend.

And Dave (Vaughn), their dependable pal, is just there for support. Naturally he and wife Ronnie (Akerman) hit a rough patch the moment their marriage goes under the microscope.

With yoga and counseling (John Michael Higgins and Ken Jeoung earn a grin as therapists), massages, and sessions with the arrogant guru in charge (Jean Reno), these twosomes will re-light the marital fires.

None of the couples is interesting enough to carry the movie, and a sauna riff-off is only an echo of vintage Vince and Jon. They're reduced to kiddie potty jokes and tacky sex gags here.

When your big pay-off is a Guitar Hero playoff, "retreat" is the word the writers should embrace. Unless they have their hearts set on that trip to Bora Bora.

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