Ball cancer. That’s a joke in Couple’s Retreat, repeated six times in the opening 20-minutes. This joins the repetitive alarm code “asstastic” as spoken by Vince Vaugn five times (and spelled out), and men in speedos four times as the jokes in this comedy farce.
Despite the blatant, groan-inducing repetition at times, Couples Retreat does build some momentum from the start. The somewhat familiar characters are fine given their energy, and the pacing seems to be building to something worthwhile.
Then, therapy happens. Four couples pay for what is supposed to be a relaxing vacation in Bora Bora, and the audience is stuck watching those same couples go through counseling. Even with talented modern comedians like Ken Jeong leading, this is not funny material. The bored looks on the actors faces are supposed to be funny, but the audience shares the same lack of enthusiasm.
The script, penned by actors Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau (a third credit going to Dana Fox), contains some weirdly disconnected events. Jason (Jason Bateman) is seen trying to break into the home of Vaughn and his wife (Malin Akerman) in the middle of the night. After setting off the alarm, Jason and Vaughn have a chat, but it is never clear what Jason was planning on doing in the first place if he was not intending to wake them up, which is why he didn’t call.
Vaughn plays a Guitar Hero salesman (a job that doesn’t exist; that can get a pass), so inevitably he must play the game in a blatant piece of product placement that seemingly goes on forever. The point is to push the male side of the cast onto the opposite side of the island via a bet, yet more laughs could have been created just by walking through the island in the middle of the night.
The best part of Couples Retreat is the adorable Colin Baiocchi, playing Vaughn’s youngest son. Despite being in the movie for less than two minutes, he garners more laughs than anyone else, utilizing the display toilet in the middle of a hardware store twice… even he can’t escape repetition.
If Universal’s AVC encode for Couples Retreat offered consistent facial detail, this would undoubtedly be a reference quality disc. Prior to arrival on the island, despite a slight softness, detail is high. Objects around the homes are clearly visible, even in the far distance. Clothing textures are strong. Color is well saturated, and flesh tones, despite a small digital intermediate tint towards orange, are fine.
When it comes time to hit the island, the stunning, beautiful photography takes hold. The encode pushes some jaw-dropping visuals, from the blistering blues of the water, to the lush green foliage. Mesmerizing long shots retain every possible ounce of definition in each environment, especially in the palm trees. Look at the straw roofs on the huts at 26:17 too, individual strands easily visible deep into the frame.
A bright contrast and rich blacks bring enormous depth to the image. Scenes shot at night are just as vibrant and saturated as those during the day. A fine layer of grain is completely natural, and no ill effects come from it. There are no instances of intrusive digital tampering. All of this makes one wonder why faces can be so flat and lifeless everywhere except in close-ups, given how everything else is pristine.
For a dialogue driven comedy, this DTS-HD mix has some moments. Some positional dialogue in the divided fronts is welcome, and some scenes utilize the surrounds effectively. The shark attack, with its splashing water and movement in all directions is impressive.
A thunderstorm on the water, despite a rather weak but clean low end (which is the case throughout), offers plenty of enveloping rain and thunder claps. The Guitar Hero stand-off delivers the music clearly, along with more of the positional dialogue. Once onto the singles side of the island, the party kicks up with loads of ambient chatter, music, and core dialogue mixed wonderfully.
A visual commentary, oddly selected by Universal’s typically irritating U-Control feature, features first-time director Peter Billingsley and Vince Vaughn chatting about the experience. They continue optionally through most of the special features, including nine deleted scenes (10:01 total), three extended (4:22), and a wisely cut alternate ending (2:56).
A short gag reel is worth a few laughs, and some marginally amusing improv is contained in Therapies Greatest Hits. Paradise Found has everyone chatting about the shoot in Bora Bora, while Behind the Yoga focuses on the instructor. Typical Universal BD-Live support is left.