Studio Name: Universal (Relativity Media)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Disc/Transfer Information: 1080p High-Definition; Widescreen 1.85:1
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Director: Peter Billingsley
Starring Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau
Comedies are like sports coupes in the automotive realm; that is to say, they have a very short shelf life. Compared to dramas, which can remain relevant to changing times or afford repeat viewings from a media collection, comedies simply lose their luster after awhile and the punch lines simply don’t work like they initially did.
Case in point: Remember when you first watched 40-Year-Old Virgin or Knocked Up? I’ll go back even further with you – how many can recall staying up late to watch Porky’s or Bachelor Party? Sure, some of these hold nostalgic value and a few reminiscent chuckles can be had from watching them now when you’re a bit older, but they don’t crack you up like they first did, do they? Let’s hope comedies from the iPod generation – encompassing 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sara Marshall, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry and now Universal’s laughster Couples Retreat -- stand the test of time. Couples Retreat isn’t on the level of these other aforementioned comedies in terms of raw laugh power but it was entertaining. The most effective move by director Peter Billingsley was to assemble a host of mostly talented people that work well off each other in comedic situations; this isn’t always the case. Here, we have Jason Bateman and his wife Kristen Bell who are having marital problems and they convince their other friends – Jon Favreau, Faizon Love and Vince Vaughn and their wives (in the case of Faizon, it’s a 20-year-old skanky ghetto girlfriend) – that a trip to the “Eden” resort will help them while assisting to solve their own issues. The friends are kind of conned into going to this place, but after they arrive on this Bora Bora island and Favreau gets a peek at some smokin’ hot pieces of ass from San Diego’s dance team which arrive to hit the island’s single section, they’re willing to stay.
From there, all kinds of hijinks conspire, with Bateman’s antics and demands to indulge in the island’s couple therapy sessions leading to the group of friends discovering issues and problems they never knew they had. The guys – notably Favreau – are longing to get over to “Eden East” which is the young, hip singles resort where they can look at the pieces of ass all night instead of dealing with their wives. The ladies, meantime, goggle over Euro-trash six-pack-stomached massage therapists that woo them with hard bodies and nauseating accents. I suppose there’s a lesson here…something about having wandering eyes and then realizing the person you really love is standing in front of you…but it’s clichéd and ridiculously predictable.
One of the most surprising standout performances in Couples Retreat comes from Faizon Love, who plays his heavy set “brotha from the ‘hood” spot-on and in such a reserved but hysterical fashion that it is truly effective – and funny. The sequences where the couples are sitting around in different colored robes while they endure their mental therapy sessions is particularly hysterical when watching Love sitting there in his gold-colored ensemble, looking as if he’s about to bust out of it it’s so tight. When he says to his way-too-young girlfriend he’s taken to Eden after coming out of divorce “They’re makin’ me do these exercises and ****…I don’t know what to tell you…” when she complains about not being able to jet ski and such, it’s a side-splitting moment. Love just plays the role so well. There’s also a funny moment when Vaughn gets into a “Guitar Hero competition” with the resort’s weird tour guide when the group of guys, searching for their wives who have made off towards the single part of the resort chasing a Euro-trash masseuse, stumble on the tour guide and some other employees rocking out to Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl;” the sequence is hysterical. When Vaughn demands the directions to the other island where their wives and other hot singles are partying, the tour guide refuses to tell him, until a deal is struck to play a little one-on-one Guitar Hero. The thing is, Vaughn is somewhat of an expert, as he sells and markets this game as his full-time job.
Of course, we all know how this ends, don’t we? Why would a modern comedy come along that doesn’t adhere to the formula of “everything works out for everybody everywhere”? We know this isn’t the way real life operates, as nothing usually turns out for the best or better in these situations (trust me, I have experience) but Hollywood’s insistence on exhibiting these kinds of scenarios in motion picture comedies retains its persistent grasp. In the case of Couples Retreat, Love’s ex-wife finds him at the Eden resort amongst the gyrating hard sexy bodies of the chicks dancing at the Eden East “club” and falls back in love with him…all the other couples including Bateman and Bell and their friends all rediscover their passions for one another, thanks to this impromptu trip. The notion is ridiculous, cliché and simply unrealistic on so many levels, but, hey, it sells tickets to theaters and disc rentals, so what does Universal care? I complained about this before with the ending of The Proposal, but…
I can definitely recommend a rental here. Couples Retreat offered more than a few belly laughs, and actually delivered a few bust-out-laughing moments. Give it a spin; we may even buy it once I settle into our new house we just bought. Things have been hectic here!
VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
As per usual with Universal, this 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p transfer looked gorgeous for the most part – the lush, sun-drenched sequences depicting the Eden resort and the surrounding aqua blue waters were stunning. The transfer was noise-free and didn’t really exhibit fine film grain or any detail-enhancing elements such as that – but that same factor also contributed to the film coming off a bit “DVD-like” in certain spots, where the video was so smoothed out and over that at times, you could almost swear you were watching a very well-mastered upscaled DVD. This could be, perhaps, because Universal used some DNR during the mastering process.
AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
In keeping with their DTS-HD Master Audio policy on new releases, Universal provides Couples Retreat with a 5.1 Master Audio mix that is largely wasted in terms of dynamics. Of course, this is the nature of the material here…that is, non-energetic comedic elements; still, I couldn’t help but think there could have been some more enthusiastic audio work. Dialogue is crisp and is delivered in a punchy enough manner through the center channel, but there was sparse use of the surrounds and little to no dynamic directional cuing. An abrupt thunderstorm sequence in the film rips some thunder and rain effects into the surrounds, but nothing beyond that is sparking my memory or standing out in any way.
I’ll be watching and working on Law Abiding Citizen next.