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Couples Retreat

Year: 2009
Studio: Universal
Director: Peter Billingsley
Producer: Vince Vaughan
Writer: Jon Favreau/Vince Vaughan
Cast: Vince Vaughan, Malin Akerman, Jon Favreau, Kristin Davis, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Jean Reno, Temuera Morrison

The B-list comedy club (after the Apatow crowd) of Vaughan/Stiller/Wilson/Favreau has produced some very funny movies and some so-so ones, but nothing as hatstand and corporate as this turgid offering.

A group of married friends going on holidays together on an idyllic island paradise to find it's one big intensive couples therapy session looked great on paper, but there are so many problems it's hard to know which drags this film into the quagmire of mediocrity more.

When terminally stuffy couple Jason and Cynthia (Bateman and Bell) explain to their friends they're considering splitting up and that their only chance is a romantic retreat for couples, they convince everyone else to go with them to make it cheaper.

The rest of the gang tag along, expecting to leave the pair to their counseling while they have fun, only to find they'll all be suffering s6am counseling sessions and the roving hands of a sleazy yoga teacher to contend with.

The cracks start to show in all their relationships and...nothing else happens. That's the first problem, the fact that the script doesn't know where to go to finalise this story. The second problem is that the jokes peter out early and what probably looked like a riot in a studio production meeting has ended up like a joke you have to explain too many times, even those telling it looking bored.

Another problem is the drab, flat direction by studio hack Billingsley if Favreau had stepped behind the camera there might have - been something more interesting to look at than from this riot of overblown CGI colour.

Most problematic of all (so much so it's actually offensive) is the most shameless product placement I've seen in a movie so far, an entire five minute sequence dedicated to Guitar Hero that's so off kilter and tonally different to the rest of the movie it's like a break for commercials. Publisher Activision must have promised Universal half the budget, and the other half was an excuse for Vaughan and Favreau to take their buddies away on holiday and shoot a movie while they were at it to claim it all back on tax.

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