Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau team up after their '90s career-making hit, Swingers, to write and costar in Couples Retreat, a romantic comedy that's heavy on the satire, but is also knowing and wry, as Swingers is at its best. Vaughn and Favreau are joined in the top-notch cast by the always engaging Kristin Bell (whose appearance with Vaughn, in a romantic tropical setting, may remind viewers of Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Jason Bateman, Kristin Davis (Sex and the City), Faizon Love, and Jean Reno. Fans of romantic comedies, and comedies of manners, will be delighted at the snappy interaction among the actors, and the zingers delivered by the script.
"You are not buying some 20-year-old broad a motorcycle!" yells Vaughn's character, Dave, to Love's character, Shane, who's having an early midlife crisis. "She's a kid! Buy her a Hello Kitty book!" Turns out that all the couples in Dave and Shane's circle are having issues, and decide to take a group tropical vacation. Ah, but there's a catch: the island getaway comes with mandatory couples counseling and bonding events. Most of the film's laughs come from cringe-worthy fish-out-of-water moments, though there are some pretty great fish-in-water moments, too: Dave begins to panic during a test involving swimming with sharks. "It's time to get the gun, and shoot some fish!"
Reno is also a standout, as the unctuous New Age-y director of the retreat, fearless in spewing half-nonsense yet having the almost admirable courage to stand behind his convictions. The film was directed with a light hand by Peter Billingsley, who starred as young Ralphie in A Christmas Story, and who has acted with Vaughn in Four Christmases and The Break-Up. And somehow, among the lunacy and the beauty of nature, friends and soulmates may just find the way back to each other. Just steer clear of the Jet Skis. --A.T. Hurley