-->
Film

Couples Retreat (2009): Blu-ray


Couples Retreat

Director: Peter Billingsley
Cast: Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Faizon Love, Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis, Jean Reno
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Universal Studios
Year: 2009
US date: 2009-10-09 (General release)
Trailer

When Swingers stumbled onto the scene back in 1996, it was championed as a brilliant piece of indie smarm. With Jon Favreau providing the script and Doug Liman directing, the cast (including then unknowns Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston, and Heather Graham) took the tale of a group of fun loving friends and, for a moment, transformed it into a one way ticket to Coolsville. While the cult didn't last long, it catapulted the cast into the lower levels of Hollywood's soon to be heavy hitters. In the 13 years since, Vaughn has transformed into a comedy chameleon while partner Farveau has gone on to become an A-list director, thanks in no small part to Elf and Iron Man. Now the duo are reteaming for a relationships laugher called Couples Retreat (new to DVD and Blu-ray from Universal). Sadly, it appears their sense of humor is stuck squarely in the middle of the Clinton Administration.

With their inability to have kids complicating their marriage, anal duo Jason and Cynthia are desperate for a solution. So they sign up for an exclusive couple's retreat in a fabulous tropical locale. The only problem? In order to afford it, they have to get six more of their friends to join in. This means convincing the happily married Dave and Ronnie, the headed to divorce court Joey and Lucy, and the already single Shane (hooking up with a horny 20 year old) to come along for the therapeutic fun. Naturally, they all say "No", that is, until Jason more or less begs. Before they know it, they're in Eden, a gorgeous getaway that offers jet skiing, kayaking, snorkeling - and of course, endless sessions of intense analysis and soul bearing with founder Mr. Marcel. All seems to be going well until Shane's gal pal bails, heading over to the singles side of the island for a little fun. With the rest of the group heading in that same direction, it looks like this is one marriage oasis that will result in more break-ups than make-ups.

Couples Retreat is well-meaning but dull, really nothing more than a retread update of the far superior 1981 comedy The Four Seasons. While not an actual remake, writers Favreau, Vaughn and What Happens In Vegas' Dana Fox obviously recognize the potential in putting four paramour pairings together, letting their various idiosyncrasies and thoughts about love seep into the silly stuff. They also more or less mimic the Alan Alda/Carol Burnett offering, giving us the settled couple with some minor issues (Vaughn and Malin Akerman), the duo who just don't connect anymore (Favreau and Kristin Davis), the weirdoes who think that a Power Point presentation on Testicular Cancer it a good reason for a party (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell), and the recently divorced sugar daddy (Faizon Love) whose brought his braying whiny baby doll (Kali Hawk) into this mix.

By throwing all these types at the camera, director Peter Billingsley hopes to offer an overview of commitment and complaints circa 2009. Instead, Couples Retreat feels decidedly old school. In a current comedy climate which sees shock-a-thon masterworks as The Hangover rake in millions of dollars, poking gentle fun at New Age marriage counselors is not the most up to date means of making people laugh. Even more disconcerting, Favreau and Vaughn overload the film with all manner of touchy feely gender clichés. The men here all think with their privates - except Vince, who is constantly mocked for being so libido-less. The gals all complain about a lack of romance, their otherwise complicated lives easily appeased with a simple trip to an ethereal waterfall. In between, RomCom formulas are dusted off and discussed, tired vaudevillian portraits of psychotherapy are brought out of mothballs, and the entire premise pays off in ways that even a novice to the world of husband and wife narratives could easily predict.

Of course, if the material is making you roll in the aisle with laughter, all of this tried and true treacle won't matter. But aside from some obvious giggles, Couples Retreat is more of a smile producer than a side splitter. Sure, we chuckle when Vaughn's infant son relieves himself in a home improvement store toilet, but its one of several such bodily function gags. Faizon Love is a massive mountain of a man, so it makes perfect sense that his bare buttocks get a huge audience reaction. Then there is the yoga scene, already hinted about in the trailer. Going on for far too long, we get stud boy sex puppet Carlos Ponce as Salvatore, a man who doesn't mind shoving his groin into provocative places - female OR male. The first few crotch thrusts are funny. By the ten minute mark, we want out.

At least the performances pack some punch. Vaughn and Akerman make a good team, and she's excellent when not required to act like an idiot. Favreau and Davis are so busy making cow eyes at the available paradise playthings that we never really discover why they no longer lust after each other (it has something to do with getting pregnant at prom, supposedly). Bateman and Bell take the type A personality to its logical, and sometimes laughable, ends, while Love is always likeable as the big black teddy bear who just can't keep up with his much younger bed buddy. Perhaps the only embarrassed member of the cast is Jean Reno, who seems stuck in a role Ben Kingsley obviously abandoned. We are supposed to be shocked at seeing the familiar French treasure taking on such silly material. Instead, we are just embarrassed.

While Billingsley acquits himself well in the directing department, it's the script that finally sinks Couples Retreat. Perhaps five years ago, before Judd Apatow irreparable turned cleverness toward the penis, this would have worked. But ever since The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, relationship comedies have to be over the top, scatological, and loaded with F-bombs. At PG-13, this movie is playing in a completely different cinematic territory. There is no denying the talent on display. Everyone involved has been better, and more importantly, more box office friendly than where Couples Retreat finds them. A mere 13 years ago, such a film would seem like a major leap forward for Favreau and Vaughn. Today, it's like a look back - and not a very fun bit of unnecessary nostalgia at that.

4
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image