Homer Numan

Homer Numan

Friday, October 23, 2009

Couples Retreat -- or preferably run away

The first film I saw in a cinema was 'Grease' back in 1979. There was literally a scrum at the door to get in. The auditorium was completely packed and the whole thing was a real event from start to finish.

Fast forward 30 years and we have huge multiplexes with myriad screens, virtually all of them close to empty. Why should this be? At around a fiver, a cinema ticket isn't overly expensive, most venues turn a blind eye to sneaking in your own snacks and the seats are comfortable and often recline. What's not to like?

Well there IS one little problem. The actual product on offer is, let's be honest, generally dire. I've seen literally dozens of films this year, and with a handful of exceptions, they have ranged from uninspired to atrocious.

One in the latter camp is most definitely 'Couples Retreat', a supposed comedy with all the laughs of an audience with Gordon Brown.

On paper, this movie looks decent enough -- a talented cast including Vince Vaughn, one of the girls from 'Sex And The City' and various other reasonably familiar faces. The premise of four couples going for a 'bonding' week in paradise surely has some great comic possibilities a la 'The Hangover' no?

That IS a no. This film is painful to watch -- it fails to be either a romantic or gross-out comedy, or indeed a comedy of any sort whatsoever. One example is Vaughn's 'shark' scene, reminiscent of a joke with no punchline.
We're treated to mind-numbingly tedious therapy sessions, a couple of middle-aged man's embaressment moments and an obese guy's butt.
The male characters are dull and annoying while their partners are completely forgettable. No-one seems even remotely interested in being on set, never mind in a major movie.
When the sole laugh is delivered via a small boy on a toilet, you know you've hit rock bottom.

And while this may be, by a squeak, the worst film I've seen this year, it's by no means unique. I've also sat through Ricky Gervais' lame 'Invention Of Lying', Terry Gilliam's complete mess of a movie 'Imaginarium' and the dreadful Jim Carey vehicle 'Yes Man.' OK there have been pluses -- Tarrantino's 'Inglorious Basterds' is well worth a look, Jason Statham's 'Crank 2' is good knuckle-headed fun and Disney's recent kids classic 'Up' is a real gem, but just about everything else is at best forgettable.

It does make you wonder how films are actually chosen for the multiplexes. Hundreds of movies are made every year, but only a minute percentage appear in your local fleapit. Surely it would be feasible for each multiplex to set aside one or two screens for 'less mainstream' films. After all they could hardly be less well attended than most of the 'big budget blockbusters', many of which attract a dozen or so punters to an auditorium seated for several hundred.

At a time when the public's attention is easily distracted by myriad TV channels, computer games and unlimited online entertainment, the film industry needs to be taking bold steps to get those bums back on seats. That means quality product -- comedy that is actually funny rather than embaressing, horror that scares rather than disgusts and thrillers that actually have a plot rather than a pile of explosions.

'Couples Retreat' is the perfect example of everything that is wrong with today's cinema -- tired, uninteresting stodge that will encourage no-one to return. Major rethink needed.

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