©2009 Big Empire Industries and Randy Shandis Enterprises
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This week:
Couples Retreat

Filthy says:
"Don't ever fucking get married if you're gonna be like this."

The most original and clever thing about Couples Retreat is its title. I think it took the most effort to come up with, too. Beyond the genius of the name, this movie makes the sucking sound of a Hoover with a mouse caught in the hose. This movie can be used as an admission of guilt whenever someone involved in it is accused of never having a single good or new idea. It is as sloppy as joes made from dogshit, as pointless as a kindergarten pencil and as amusing as getting crabs from your grandmother's towels. It's fucking awful.

If you go see Couples Retreat, be forewarned that you'll sit near a sad, lonely middle-aged woman who speaks loudly about TV characters as through they are real people in her life and who sees the trailer for the latest Nancy Meyers chick-lit crapfest and says out loud, "I should write movies. How do I go about doing that?" because she has so romanticized the ways in which she has fucked up her own life and relationships that she thinks being fat and mean is comedy gold. She will also howl throughout the movie, particularly at the parts where nobody else laughs, not because she's amused but because she wants others to think she is. And she'll kick the back of your chair. How do I know you'll encounter this woman? Because this shit was written for her.

Couples Retreat was "written" by Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, along with Dana Fox , responsible for some spectacularly shitty romantic comedies recently (one so bottom-feeding it starred Ashton Kutcher). I'm guessing it took one lunchtime to pen it, but they were done by dessert. Vaughn and Favreau started out in Hollywood thinking they were going to make a difference, tell original stories and be originals. Instead, they've both become fat and lazy jackasses who make crap so long as it pays well. This time, they've made a flabby, formulaic romantic comedy that forgot the romance, the comedy and anything resembling a plot. It doesn't even try its lousiness look or sound good.

Jason Bateman and Kristin Bell, playing yuppies whose only defining characteristic is that they use PowerPoint a lot, may get a divorce. Before they decide, though, they want to go to tropical Bora Bora for a couples therapy vacation. Problem is, it's a little pricey and they need three couple friends to accompany them to make it affordable. Even though it's stupid and implausible to think four couples would drop everything to go to Bora Bora on a week's notice, the movie spends a shitload of unfunny time on the point. And on scenes that are supposed to establish the characters but really make them all look interchangeable and annoying. For the first thirty minutes, Bateman and Bell work to convince Vaughn, Favreau, Faizon Love and their wives/girlfriends. The scene introducing Love has him begging Vaughn to cosign a loan because he has no money. Yet, next thing we know, he's on a fancy vacation halfway across the world. You lazy fucking hacks. And to not even mention the guy's money woes again for the entire movie? Bullshit.

The first act also features Vaughn arguing over kitchen tile and watching his son pee into a showroom-display toilet. That's so fucking hilarious that it's reprised later when the kid craps in the same bowl. God damn! That's why screenwriters deserve their millions. And so do the rednecks on America's Funniest Home Videos. There is a scene where two pre-adolescent kids tell their parents "We want you to go on this vacation. We don't want you to get a divorce," in those words. Talk about lazy writing. There's also a lot of unfunny arguing among people with so few likeable qualities that they can't even stand each other.

All that suburban malaise unnecessarily delays the reason Couples Retreat exists, which is to be a comedy about people who don't think they have marital problems encountering new-agey touchy-feely shit that annoys them but--surprise!--reveals they really don't communicate well with their spouses. The time in Bora-Bora, while very scenic, is as formless as one of Mrs. Filthy's tunics. It's a shambling collection of scenes without jokes. Jean Reno is the couples therapist who leads them through a series of exercises, like disrobing for each other, or going snorkeling. These scenes don't offer much promise to begin with, but also have no punchline. I don't know if we're supposed to laugh at how the movie depicts couples therapy because it doesn't have the balls to either embrace or mock it. Maybe the jokes would have come if Vaughn and Favreau had kept writing the script into early afternoon instead of knocking off before cheesecake.

There are too many scenes of the four asshole couples with therapists telling them their problems. The therapists are comic actors, but they aren't given anything funny to do or say. They just voice what's obvious. As a result these scenes are unfunny and tedious. Also, an important lesson for director Peter Billingsley (yes, that Peter Billingsley) and the writers is that married couples yelling at each other is not inherently funny. It's something we can get for free at Taco Bell.

For 80 minutes Couples Retreat meanders from predictable scene to predictable scene, such as when Kristin Davis gets a sexy male masseur like she hoped, only to learn he is gay. Oh, how clever! Or when the Fabio-like yoga instructor bends them into positions charged with sexual innuendo. In its last half-hour, though, the movie finds some strand of a plot. Love's girlfriend disappears and the group decide they must travel to the "swinging singles" side of the resort to retrieve her, and they must do it by sunrise or forfeit... I'm not the fuck sure what they forfeit since they are miserable and have already done everything the couples retreat offers. No matter, since the movie ultimately ignores its own ticking clock and the couples don't return on time. Without consequence.

There is a Guitar Hero showdown scene that takes about as long as passing a kidney stone. I don't know about you, but watching somebody else play a video game I can play at home on the big screen ain't worth ten bucks to me. But it counts as one of Couples Retreat's most exciting sequences. Once on the singles side, there are many speeches about love, fidelity and that shit. All the couples, when faced with temptation, realize that they really love their spouses. Not convincingly, of course. Just conveniently. In another matter of ridiculous and unjustified convenience, Love's ex-wife is on the single side, having come all the to Bora Bora to find him, and they realize they were always in love ad will get back together.

Besides the slack plotting, obvious setups and pointlessness, what I hated most about Couples Retreat is the characters in it, or the lack of characters. We're told Vaughn either makes or sells video games, I don't know which. But we never see how this impacts him until his big showdown. We don't know what anyone else does, nor do we care, because they are interchangeable assholes. They are superficial, consumerist pricks so self-absorbed that, in Vaughn's case, they dump their kids at a moment's notice. Similarly, all the fucking problems they have are so obviously written that there isn't a single thing of interest revealed in the therapy. And since the problems are obvious, so are the solutions. If I ever went to Costco, I'm pretty sure I'd find them in the golf apparel aisle.

Couples Retreat is just a shitty movie, written and starring people who wouldn't care less about it or us. Watching it is a crappy way to spend two hours, as it probably was for Favreau and Vaughn to write it. One Finger.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Ben Lyons of E!

Whip It: Drew Barrymore does a terrific job in front of and behind the camera."

New York, I love You is "an inspiring celbration of love that's full of hope, romance aqnd precious moments."

No shitting. The guy used "precious moments." He must be really tired.

Filthy's Reading
Donald Batheleme - Flying to America

Listening to
No Age - Losing Feeling


Three Stooges