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Originally published October 8, 2009 at 3:00 PM | Page modified October 8, 2009 at 5:01 PM

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Movie review

'Couples Retreat': About as much fun as marriage counseling

It might be more fun to stay home and argue with your spouse rather than going to the Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau "comedy" "Couple's Retreat," says Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 1.5 stars

'Couples Retreat,' with Vince Vaughn, Malin Ackerman, Jon Favreau, Kristin Davis, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Faizon Love, Kali Hawk. Directed by Peter Billingsley, from a screenplay by Favreau, Vaughn and Dana Fox. 107 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language. Several theaters.

Imagine that you are listening in on the marriage-counseling sessions of the dullest couple you know. Multiply that by four, and you've got a pretty good approximation of the experience of watching "Couples Retreat." Sound like fun? Don't say I didn't warn you.

That some of these people are very good-looking, and that much of the action takes place on a picturesque island in French Polynesia, doesn't quite make up for the overall tedium of this would-be comedy. Its premise, scripted by co-stars Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau with Dana Fox, is simple: Four couples, each struggling in their relationship, agree to go to a tropical resort that specializes in couples counseling along with the Mai Tais. (Why do they all go together? Because of a volume discount. Marriage counseling, apparently, is like Costco — cheaper if you buy it in bulk.)

Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell), whose marriage is troubled due to infertility problems, persuade their friends to come along, assuring them that the counseling is optional. But it isn't — life in paradise involves mandatory 6 a.m. encounter sessions — and the other three couples soon are confronting their own issues. Dave (Vaughn) and Ronnie (Malin Ackerman) are stressed out because they have kids and a remodeling project. (This is about as interesting as it sounds.) Joey (Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis) are staying together for the sake of their teenage daughter. Shane (Faizon Love) is involved with the much-younger Trudy (Kali Hawk), but yearns for his ex-wife.

All of this is discussed, at great length, until you just may want a Mai Tai yourself. Peter Serafinowicz has a few funny moments as an unctuous resort employee (his name is Stanley "with a C"), as does the very sculpted Carlos Ponce as a mellow and freehanded yoga instructor. But Peter Billingsley's direction drags everything along, and you find yourself dwelling on the oddest things, like the costume designer's penchant for putting Ackerman, Bell and Davis in perfectly harmonizing solid colors as if they're about to pose for a J. Crew spread or burst into Andrews Sister-style song. Frankly, I wished they had.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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