Having close access to movie rentals is just one of those things that makes life a tiny bit eacier if you're a movie lover from a small town. I expect to have quite a few DVD reviews in the next few weeks thanks to a new Blockbuster kiosk only 2 minutes from my place. I've seen one I enjoyed more than I thought I would and one I enjoyed less than I expected.
Couples Retreat is a comedy with a stellar cast that actually uses them to great advantage, even if the story is very contrived, it still comes out ahead with very funny moments. The Invention of Lying also has a terrific cast, many all-star cameos, but uses a one-trick pony and explores it beyond all necessity.
Couples Retreat stars Vince Vaughn, Malin Ackerman, Jon Favreau, Kristin Davis, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Faizon Love, and Kali Hawk as the couples who go on retreat. They're all starting from a different point in their marriage. Bateman/Bell have been trying to conceive a child but want to figure out if they should keep going by going to this couples therapy retreat. Vaughn and Ackerman are hoping for the honeymoon they never had due to early kids and jobs. Favreau and Davis are planning a divorce but keeping it secret until their daughter goes to college. And Love/Hawk have only been dating 2 weeks (she's 20 and his old and fat). The trademark rapid dialogue Vaughn brings to all his movies, but is in terrific company with Favreau and Bateman. The women more than hold their own by managing to avoid the stereotypical "wife" characters as fun rather than shrew. There's quite a bit of really funny bits, mostly with the various requirements the therapy puts them through. The small roles of the therapists played by John Michael Higgins, Ken Jeong, Charlotte Cornwall and Amy Hill. They're some of the more ridiculous therapists I've ever seen, but of course make all the couples look more closely at their relationships. The other people running the retreat are also sources of laughs, though definitely the low-brow variety. My only major problem with the movie was the odd pairings. Most of the couples are more than 10 years different in age (an exception is Favreau/Davis who were actually the most interesting couple). It just took away from the idea that these marriages had been going on very long or that this group of people would all be friends - a completely unexplained plot point. Still, funny if you enjoy the Vaughn/Favreau humor. 3 of 5 stars/lambs.
The Invention of Lying is also funny if you enjoy Ricky Gervais brand of humor. Jennifer Garner, Tina Fey and Rob Lowe do offer some assistance in diversifying the humor, but it's basically Gervais all the way. They live in a world where its not possible to lie or pretend or do anything that isn't true or real. So movies are just a person dramatically reading actual historical stories. Every statement someone says is assumed to be the absolute truth. One day Gervais develops the ability to lie and takes full advantage of it. He can get away with it because every just assumes everything everyone says is true, so when he tells a woman that they must have sex or the world will end, she believes him without question. The crux of the story comes when Gervais mother is dying and to relieve her fear, he makes up a story about the afterlife being a wonderful place. Several people overhear him (including Jason Bateman as her doctor) and Gervais makes up all this rules about a man in the sky who causes all the good and bad in the world and that everyone will get a mansion after death. The whole thing causes problems, and he still finds that he can't make Jennifer Garner fall in love with him even by lying. It's entertaining for the first 25 minutes or so, and then becomes a satire (or mockery) of religion that wasn't particularly funny. 2 of 5 stars/lambs
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