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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Couples Retreat

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Though much of its action is set at an idyllic island getaway in the South Pacific, the mostly dull, sexually wayward marital comedy "Couples Retreat" (Universal/Relativity) is hardly a visit to paradise.

Before reaching the safe shore of its morally acceptable, fidelity-affirming wrap-up, viewers have to endure waves of constantly suggestive, occasionally smutty humor and a tide of New Age psychobabble.

Presiding over the resort—where the usual recreational activities are interspersed with sessions of hippy-dippy marriage therapy—is French-born free spirit Marcel (Jean Reno). Impressed by Marcel's reputation as a renowned "couples whisperer," suburbanites Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell), whose bond has been strained by their infertility and by the round of treatments they've been pursuing to remedy it, are certain that he alone can salvage their union.

But the pair can only afford Marcel's luxurious retreat at a group rate, so they cajole a few of their friends to join them on the journey with the promise—false as it turns out— that the others can skip the relationship repair work and spend all their time chasing fun in the sun.

Since Dave (Vince Vaughn) and Ronnie (Malin Akerman) believe themselves to have a perfectly happy marriage, and since Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis) want to conceal the fact that they're about to split, they're chagrined to be told, shortly after arrival, that everyone must participate in analysis or they will all—Jason and Cynthia included—be sent packing.

As for Shane (Faizon Love), he's equally put out, since he's already separated from his wife and has his recently acquired, much younger girlfriend Trudy (Kali Hawk) in tow.

Predictably, first-time director Peter Billingsley's debut sees its ensemble of characters rediscovering their love for each other or learning to work harder at being good spouses. But Marcel's method, which rests on concepts like connecting with your inner animal spirit, and features sessions of yoga and massage played for blue humor, is obviously not a credible substitute for faith as a basis for lifelong commitment.


The film contains strong sexual content, including brief but aberrant adulterous activity, fleeting nongraphic sexual activity within marriage, a flash of rear nudity, many sexually themed jokes, and some crude and much crass language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

***
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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