Fourteen years ago, Vaughn and Favreau brought us Swingers, a low budget indie that hit its targets with precision - by turns acerbic, biting, charming and frequently hilarious, This was their gateway to the big time and since then most of their efforts have turned to mush - formulaic Hollywood fodder.
Couples Retreat is no exception. It's easy on the eye and a pleasant enough distraction but also witless and indeed bloodless, a dialogue-heavy treatise on relationships with few gags to leaven it. Four couples go on a retreat to a luxury island getaway (actually Bora Bora). Most of them think it will be holiday leisure time for a week but in reality they are put through counselling sessions every day to delineate what is wrong in their respective relationships.
Bateman's union with Bell lacks spontaneity and warmth, the pressure of trying to conceive proving a difficult barrier. Vaughn is too pigheaded, taking his wife Akerman for granted. Favreau and Davis married young, straight after high school, and now regret the fact that they missed out on youthful indiscretions, while overweight Love has recently split from his partner and is there with his new 20-year-old girlfriend (Hawk) whom he only met two weeks previously.
Gradually we see the cracks in their respective pairings, but there's precious little humour to make us like them. The performers try hard and the locations are certainly attractive but a stronger comic sensibility would have been welcome. There are many missed opportunities here. Reno is miscast as a pretentious guru while Serafinowicz is given precious little room to display his comedy talents as an unctuous hotel manager.
What with the exotic setting and Bell featured in the cast, this effort will inevitably be compared to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which was funny and highly enjoyable. Alas, Couples Retreat doesn't come anywhere near it for appeal or affability. It's mildly agreeable on occasion but hardly persuasive. In all, a damp squib.