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Couples Retreat

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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