Couples Retreat

Release Date: October 9, 2009

I've got a secret, Veronica Mars. A good one.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
18/20 Les Winan Enjoyable yet ultimately a missed opportunity. Great cast and premise, lazy execution.
21/169 Max Braden I laughed a lot during this, mostly because the delivery is largely deadpan.
73/82 Kelly Metz It's mind-boggling when Malin Akerman is one of the better actors in a movie. Such an unlikeable group of characters.

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In the wake of the surprising success of He’s Just Not That Into You, one might think that studioswould jump on the cast-of-thousands-of-B-level-stars-and TV-actors-in-a-romantic-comedy genre. And sure enough, on October 9th, Universal Studios brings us Couples Retreat (shouldn’t there be an apostrophe somewhere in that title? I’m serious, I don’t know, help me out here), a story about four couples undergoing enforced marriage therapy at a tropical island resort. Think about that, eight possible “hey, it’s that guy!” opportunities in one film. And that’s not even counting potential recognizable faces among the counselors and resort employees.

Of course, Not That Into You does have a couple of near A-listers in Jennifer Connelly and Drew Barrymore. Fulfilling that role in this film is Vince Vaughn. Now one might think he’s an upgrade, and be arguably correct, but the problem is his fan base. Into You joins the ranks of films such as 2008’s Mamma Mia!, Twilight, and Sex And The City, hit chick flicks that illustrate the power of the untapped female demographic. Vaughn’s audience tends to be a bit more of the Generation X-former-frat-boy variety.

Again, not such a bad thing. Much of Vaughn’s recent success has been in this genre. Another hit romantic comedy last year, Four Christmases ($120 million), features Vaughn, so perhaps his presence makes it easier to pursuade boyfriends and husbands to attend. After all, there's nothing wrong with getting women to the theater, but if they can bring the boys along, it's all the better for the bottom line.

And Vaughn has been on a bit of a roll lately. After the $209 million success of 2005’s Wedding Crashers escalated him from indie actor to Hollywood player, he followed it up with The Break-Up to the tune of $119 million. In addition, he’s maintained some art-house cred by popping up in Sean Penn’s Into The Wild, and has a scene-stealing supporting turn in the blockbuster Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Fred Clause is a bit of a black mark ($72 million), but Four Chrismases came along and provided him with a legitimate yuletide hit, so no harm no foul.

And then there’s the rest of the cast. As mentioned, these are a mix of recognizable faces (Malin Akerman, Jean Reno, John Michael Higgins, Jon Favreau) and television names (Jason Bateman, Kristin Davis, Kristen Bell). Folks like these don’t necessarily draw an audience, but they can raise awareness through the talk show circuit and SNL hosting gigs.

Of interest, though not necessarily an important box office factor, is the director, Peter Billingsley. An even bigger Christmas movie star than Vaughn, Billingsley has achieved a bit of cinematic immortality through his appearance as Ralphie in the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story. In recent years, he’s become quite the mogul, producing such hits as Vaughn’s The Break-Up and Four Christmases, and Favreau’s Iron Man. Couples Retreat is his feature film directorial debut.

By combining a recognizable cast and a star with a great track record of drawing men to see romantic comedies, Universal may just have another one of those “surprisingly successful women’s films” on their hands this fall. (Martin Felipe/BOP)

Vital statistics for Couples Retreat
Main Cast Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis, Vince Vaughn
Supporting Cast Malin Akerman, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Faizon Love, Jean Reno, Peter Serafinowicz, Kali Hawk, Tasha Smith
Director Peter Billingsley
Screenwriter Jon Favreau
Distributor Universal
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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