If you don't have the time, budget or inclination for a trip to Sandals resort, a marriage counseling session or the therapist's couch, then "Couples Retreat" might just be the ticket for you and your significant other.

If you're single, you might also want to check it out for some worthwhile do's and don'ts.

It turns out that this romp has a heart of gold, with funny performances by a winning cast led by Vince Vaughn, who co-wrote the script with Jon Favreau ("Swingers"; director, "Iron Man," "Elf") and Dana Fox ("What Happens in Vegas") and coproduced the light comedy.

What's more, "Couples Retreat" was directed by none other than Peter Billingsley, perhaps best-known as Ralphie in the Christmastime classic movie comedy, "A Christmas Story."

Vaughn, Favre and Billingsley are creating a Judd Apatow-like posse. Billingsley produced the Independent Film Channel show, "Dinner for Five," with Favreau. He was also involved with "Iron Man," directed by Favreau.

In "Couples Retreat," the four couples cast is nearly too much, but the script mostly balances the screen time of the leads. Also the actors are indelible enough so that you don't get them mixed up.

Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) are having difficulty in their marriage. They convince their friends to accompany them to Eden, a tropical island couples resort, so that they can get a discount and "get back to the place of being in love."

Dave (Vince Vaughn) and his wife Ronnie (Malin Akerman) aren't so convinced, but they go along, as do the other two couples, Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis), and Shane (Faizon Love) and Trudy (Kali Hawk).

Once there, their lives are taken over by couples guru Marcel (a humorous Jean Reno, playing against type), as well as a phalanx of therapists, waiters and handlers, including Cstanley (Peter Serafinowicz), spelled with a "c," and yoga instructor Salvadore (Latin pop singer Carlos Ponce), a Fabio lookalike.

Eden is gorgeous (filming took place at the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort), but it's no garden. The couples, rather than allowed to enjoy the resort, are kept busy with a regimen of self-help activities, which turns Eden into "Problem Island."

Whether it's snorkeling, couples' counseling or yoga, Eden is sort of a rehab for relationships. Meanwhile, just across the bay is Eden, the care-free singles resort.

From the opening credits song, David Bowie's "Modern Love," and photographs and home-movie footage of American married couples through the decades, "Couples Retreat" has its humor in the right place.

Billingsley keeps the storyline moving along, with only a few missteps, notably a "Guitar Hero" faceoff that doesn't go anywhere.

With the paucity of romantic comedies at movie theaters this fall, it's nice to see "Couples Retreat" advancing the cause.

"Couples Retreat": MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for sexual content and language; Genre: Comedy; Run time: 1 hr., 47 min.; Distributed by Universal Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: What do the Federal Reserve, Starbucks and "pimping everybody out" have in common? Stay until after the final credits roll in "Couples Retreat" to find out. Also, that's Vince Vaughn's dad, Vernon, as Grandpa Jim Jim.

Box Office, Oct. 9: "Couples Retreat" was the place to go, opening at No. 1 with a solid $35.3 million, sending "Zombieland" retreating to No. 2, $15 million, $47.8 million, two weeks.

3. "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," $12 million, $96.2 million, four weeks; 4. "Toy Story," "Toy Story 2" 3-D, $7.6 million, $22.6 million; two weeks; 5. "Paranormal Activity," $7 million, $8.2 million, three weeks; 6. "Surrogates," $4.1 million; $32.5 million, three weeks; 7. "The Invention of Lying," $3.3 million, $12.3 million, two weeks; 8. "Whip It," $2.8 million, $8.7 million, two weeks; 9. "Capitalism: A Love Story," $2.7 million, $9 million, three weeks; 10. "Fame," $2.5 million, $20 million, three weeks

Unreel, Oct. 16: Be afraid, be very afraid. Director Spike Jonze's version of Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are" has had the kiddies running and screaming from preview screenings. "The Stepfather" stars Sela Ward, Dylan Walsh and Penn Badgley about a son who becomes increasingly suspicious of his mother's new boyfriend. In "Law Abiding Citizen," a prisoner (Gerard Butler) goes into revenge mode against a prosecutor (Jamie Foxx).

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes