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Vol. LXIII, No. 41
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

DO YOU REALLY THINK YOU CAN SAVE OUR MARRIAGE?: Jason (Jason Bateman, right) and Cynthia (Kristin Bell) are having their first meeting with a therapist at a tropical island resort in the hope that their marriage can be saved.

Couples Retreat: Marriage Counseling Ruins Vacation in Battle-of-the-Sexes Film

Kam Williams

The married couple Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) are on the brink of separating. She hears her biological clock ticking but their visits to a fertility clinic have been fruitless. Before throwing in the towel, they agree to go for a week of marriage counseling at Eden, an idyllic retreat on Bora Bora that bills itself on the internet as the ultimate playground for adults. Besides couples’ therapy, they also offer jet skiing, snorkeling, windsurfing, drinking, dancing, and all the rest of the amenities one would expect to enjoy at a tropical resort.

Jason notices on the resort’s website that the group rate is half the price of a single couple, so he talks his buddies into coming along for an impromptu vacation, even though their relationships aren’t in crisis. There’s Dave (Vince Vaughn), who is in love with Ronnie (Malin Akerman) as much as the day they were married. Joey (Jon Favreau) is emotionally estranged from his spouse Lucy, (Kristin Davis), but the two have resigned themselves to remaining together for the sake of their daughter (Jonna Walsh). Recently divorced Shane (Faizon Love) misses his ex-wife (Tasha Smith) despite the fact that he’s now dating Trudy (Kali Hawk), a beautiful woman who is young enough to be his daughter.

After being assured that they won’t have to do any therapy sessions at the spa, the other couples book the trip, fully expecting to unwind during a relaxing week of partying and fun in the sun. However upon their arrival, they learn that the island is divided in half, with Eden East catering to the hedonistic delights they were anticipating while Eden West has a mandatory daily regimen with activities designed to help repair troubled relationships.

So, they all end up within earshot of the revelry on the other side of the bay, but find themselves under the control of Monsieur Marcel (Jean Reno), a “Couples Whisperer” who claims he can cure any ailing marriage. Unfortunately, instead of bringing the group’s couples closer together, his probing tends to create problems where there were none before. Soon, once blissful Dave and Trudy are at each other’s throats, Lucy is shamelessly flirting with their muscle-bound yoga instructor (Carlos Ponce), and Trudy disappears entirely.

Directed by Peter Billingsley, Couples Retreat is a breezy sitcom that takes a lighthearted look at the state of male-female relationships. To its credit, the director figured out how to elicit lots of laughs without having to resort to the sort of mean-spirited insults which have become the staple of the battle-of-the-sexes genre.

Brace yourself for plenty of therapeutic psychobabble from the island’s therapists. Shot against a variety of exotic backdrops, Couples Retreat is worth the price of a ticket if only because of the pleasing panoramas.

Don’t expect much in the way of plot development, since it’s essentially a series of disconnected skits, most of which are funny, even if they don’t ultimately mesh together in any meaningful way. A pleasant romantic film that is likely to delight, provided you’re willing to put your brain on pause for a couple of hours.

Very Good (3 stars). PG-13 for profanity and sexuality. Running time: 114 minutes. Studio: Universal Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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