Friday, October 9, 2009

Real Life Celebrity Proves Distracting In REEL Life Couples...

The new Universal Studios romantic comedy Couples Retreat-- about a group of friends, all with various issues and problems in their marriages, who go on a therapeutic (in many senses of the word) tropical island vacation together-- opens today. Written by Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, and starring those two plus Jason Bateman, Faizon Love, Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell, and Kristin Davis, the movie is full of the usual relationship pitfalls and tensions, offset by the manic one-liners for which Vaughn has become known. The movie is convoluted enough, focusing on four couples (eight people), but throw in all of these recognizable faces, and the audience is just taken out of the story that much more. Whether you're wondering where Davis' trademark Charlotte York pearls are or waiting for Jennifer Aniston to show up and break down in front of Akerman for stealing her man, having all of these celebrities well-known for other couplings play on-screen opposite each other here is just plain distracting!

A prime example of this has to be He's Just Not That Into You, which crashed and burned at the box office due to its attempt at Love Actually interwoven plotlines that just fell to the wayside due to the focus placed on the names attached. And oh were there names attached! Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Scarlet Johansson, Jennifer Connelly, etc etc etc. The credits read more like a People Magazine index than a call sheet, with each one gunning for the "central role" in the film. In the end, though, it was just a spectacle with no substance.

Similarly, in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Matthew McConaughey played the same player/cad/pretty boy that he always does-- and that until he had his son last year, he seemed to be in real life. However, this time around, his "never settled down" Peter Pan-esque character was matched up with the sweet and "settled" Jennifer Garner. If there were ever two people who's public images seemed to be miles apart, it would have to be these two, and trying to see McConaughey's laid-back stoner/surfer persona mesh with the conservative and serious Garner was just plain uncomfortable. In this case, real life celebrity bled into the actors' roles, and their coupledom was not believable even in a fictional world.

In the fish-out-of-water romantic comedy, New In Town, Renee Zellwegger, as a stuffy businesswoman, has to adapt not only to a small rural town but also to a scruffy blue-collar guy (Harry Connick Jr). Zellwegger has had success in romantic comedies, but seeing someone usually so buttoned-up forced to get down in the farmland dirt, so to speak, just didn't work. The charming Connick Jr did his best to win over audiences for the both of them, but Zellwegger's tightly pursed lips, scrunched up face, and squinty eyes never softened enough to convince that her icy heart had melted with the Minnesota snow.

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the films in which big name celebrities coupling on the big screen actually worked, though, was Mr & Mrs Smith. It is perhaps ironic, considering the two involved there were two of the biggest celebrities in the world and were two known for high-profile (and highly publicized) previous relationships. However, at the time Mr & Mrs Smith was released (in 2005), Angelina Jolie was making headlines for her work with the UN instead of her failed marriages, and Brad Pitt was managing to lay kind of low in the wake of his then-wife's hit show finally being off the air (it wasn't until the movie was released and the on-screen chemistry so obvious that any tabloid fodder really began).

Perhaps the difference here, though, is that Jolie and Pitt play different characters in all of their movies, so it was easy to see them slip into someone else, whereas the majority of the aforementioned simply play the same character again and again, so it's hard to see them as anything else.

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