Saturday, October 10, 2009
Couple's Retreat: Vince Vaughn's Mid-Life Crisis.
Dear Vince Vaughn,
It's time someone said it: You might not have it anymore. It's okay! You had a streak for a while (Old School, Wedding Crashers, Dodgeball), but as of late, you've made mostly failures. In fact, I think you've been replaced by the Apatow kids. Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Segal, and Paul Rudd have been picking up your slack.
So what is it, man? Are you starting to feel your age? The last two films that I consider "Vince Vaughn" films--that weren't related to Christmas--have been wishy-washy romantic comedies that couldn't decide whether to focus on the romance or the comedy. That's right, you remember The Break-Up. So what is it? Did you look back on your career and all of a sudden decide that it needed more dramatic weight? Wasn't the Psycho remake enough dramatic weight for one career?!
Now I'm not saying your attempts at combining believable drama and comedy are a bad idea. And though your execution is way off mark, I'm grateful that it isn't in another time zone like Funny People was.
In Couples Retreat, your characters are at the same time stereotypes and caricatures. Jason Bateman is so over-the-top enthusiastic and task-orientated that I wanted to slap him; Jon Favreau is your standard washed-up high school jock whose only goal appears to be partying with the twenty-somethings that for some reason find him attractive (not possible); Faizon Love is the standard overweight black friend; Kristen Bell is the puppy dog trying to please Jason Bateman; and Kristen Davis reprises her Sex and the City role.
Only you--Vince Vaughn, in case you forgot who you were during your mid-life crisis--and Malin Akerman have characters with any semblance of depth; a couple with a self-described "average" marriage and a lot of little relationship problems that you two didn't realize needed fixing. These characters are really the only two that are suited for the drama you attempted to squeeze into Couples Retreat, and that is why it feels so out of place.
Couples Retreat is, always was, and will forever be established as a comedy. Jon Favreau wouldn't be caught masturbating in any other genre. And while the film is funny, the attempts to include realistic dialogue regarding the characters' love lives weigh the humor down instead of enhancing it. You can't have a nearly naked yoga instructor comically dry-hump the female characters, and follow it with a scene of the ladies lecturing Charlotte--I'm sorry; I mean Lucy--about how inappropriate it was. They were all there getting dry humped themselves! Is one dry hump worse than another? What a lazy segue into "serious relationship talk" time!
This is how the film went:
1) Sctanley with a "c" humorously berates everyone.
2) Serious relationship talk time.
3) Faizon Love isn't wearing underwear.
4) Serious relationship talk time.
5) Vince Vaughn fends off sharks with witty banter.
6) Serious relationship talk time.
7) Jon Favreau and Charlotte try to get happy endings from their respective masseuses.
8) Serious relationship talk time.
9) All relationships are suddenly in epic turmoil!
10) Guitar Hero
11) Sexy Fun Time beach party
12) All relationship problems are resolved.
The thesis of your film is that Guitar Hero and beach parties solve all relationship problems.
There was one point in your film (I think that's all) where you combined comedy and drama perfectly. It comes when your character lectures Jon Favreau about Applebee's. Not only was it one of the funniest speeches in the film, it highlighted a greater dramatic issue (No one wants to spend their life going to Applebee's alone) without the characters trying to describe their painfully simple emotions to us in too many stupid words. You can sneak poignant thoughts into comedy without being so serious about it! Subtlety is largely underrated and underused these days.
The fact is, your tendency to juxtapose drama and comedy instead of combining the two throws the film off kilter. You can make references and thoughts about real-life relationships with your comedy, instead of forcing the audience to watch comedians attempting to emote. If you want everyone to sit down and talk about their feelings, write a drama. Don't sandwich it between a naked guy and Jean Reno. The beauty of films like Dodgeball and Old School is that they focus solely on comedy; romance is an afterthought, if even a thought at all. If you wanted to write a real romantic comedy on a tropical island, you should have had Jason Segel write your script. Do better next time.
P.S. I'm still convinced that once Kristen Bell found out that this wasn't Forgetting Sarah Marshall 2, it was too late for her to drop out.