Couples Retreat - THE REVIEW

It's always seemed a massive irony to me that Hollywood makes movies that take the piss out of so-called 'New Age' therapies.
It's as if the countless actors who regularly have them - the 'A' listers whose colons are irrigated, chakras cleansed and auras (and egos) massaged by LA therapists - can't quite see the comparison between their lives and their films. Why not celebrate what you so obviously believe in?

Couples Retreat doesn't, being another example of lowest-common-denominator thinking. Essentially its point is: 'Therapy? Nah, it's all bollocks.' Alas it doesn't have the guts to really make a pinata out of its target and give it a good thwack. The result is a half-hearted splat of a film that bookends its story with a gag about a kid taking a leak in a demo toilet at a DIY store. Classy.

The pic tells the story of three couples - Dave & Ronnie (Vince Vaughn & Malin Akerman), Shane &Ttrudy (Faizon Love & Kali Hawk), Joey & Lucy (Jon Favreau & Kristen Davis) - who spend a hastily arranged week at a relationship retreat as favour to friends Jason & Cynthia (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell), whose own romance is crumbling. If you've seen the trailer you know that it's a good concept. You'll also know all the best gags (the stuff in the yoga lesson). It's just the handling that sucks dogs.

For a start, how do all these people get time off work at such short notice? Normally I hate that kind of anally retentive questioning of films ('How does Superman get changed in a 'phone box? That couldn't happen!' 'Shut up you pedant! It's a frickin' FILM') but in this case, when the main part of the film is so reliant on our believing that these people could all go away together, it's pertinant.

But the film doesn't bother to tell you.

If you can shut off important logic for a second to accept it, it's then you're faced with yet another lazy sketch of alternative therapy as being populated by weirdo hippies, poncey psychotherapists and sexually pradatory yogi, all of whom are just after your money. It's as open-minded as a Jon Gaunt fan club meeting.

What's more, most of the guy characters can see through the 'sham'. It's just the women who are tricked by it all. So not only do we have a film that distrusts anything slightly away from the norm, it also distrusts females. It's no coincidence, incidentally, that all the wives in this are pretty, quiet and bland. The only one who isn't - the black girlfriend Trudy - is some ridiculous kind of feral nymphomaniac. Yep, Couples Retreat is a film that just keeps on ticking those cliche boxes.

It reminded me of Wild Hogs, the stupidly successful middle-aged biker movie from 2007 whose main joke was that muscley gay men wanted to bum rape Martin Lawrence et al at any opportunity. Of course, it never actually happened although I'd quite like to have seen it. Would've been more entertaining than Big Momma's House.

To see Vince Vaughn, once so gutsy and edgy in his anger, reduce himself to this (and co-write the script) brings tears to the heart although several recent outings (hello Four Christmases) have hinted that his once inspiring punky attitude is now just pot-bellied laziness. As the film drags to a conclusion, packed with ridiculously wordy and over-complicated resolutions, it's like he's just given up. Goodnight Vince. It was fun for a bit (Old School, Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers).

So there we have Couples Retreat. Another unfunny prod at liberal thinking, where dull characters with no imagination are supposedly something to aspire to.

It'll make millions.

Out 16th October.