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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.94%
Worth A Look49.02%
Average: 9.8%
Pretty Bad: 29.41%
Total Crap: 8.82%

11 reviews, 36 user ratings

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Break-Up, The
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by William Goss

"Love At Worst Bite"
1 stars

In 'The Break-Up,' most of the film takes place within a condo, and my memory recalls minimal carpeting or rugs throughout the entire residence. I presume such set design was intended to ensure that no one in their right minds might mistake, say, static electricity for something resembling genuine chemistry between the two leads.

This alleged romantic comedy stars the tragically tabloid-targeted celeb couple of the month, Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, both who show immense range by playing a non-famous couple, Gary and Brooke, whose relationship is on the verge of collapse. Gary provides popular bus tours around Chicago, a business venture in which he cooperates with his brothers (Vincent D’Onofrio and Cole Hauser), while Brooke works at an upscale art gallery with the frosty owner (Judy Davis) and flamboyant assistant (Justin Long), whose business appears to attract very few patrons. After a series of tiffs before, during, and after a family dinner result in a confrontation, the pair splits up while sharing the condo they both own. He flees to his bartender buddy (Jon Favreau) when he takes ‘it’s over’ to mean just that, and she calls upon her gal pal (Joey Lauren Adams) to try and make him return begging and pleading. Since several escapades fail to either one to neither rekindle the flame, nor abandon the abode, they call in their realtor bud (Jason Bateman) to act as mediator in selling their condo and settling their quarrel.

Well, for a film entitled The Break-Up, it sure doesn’t stray much from its subject matter. However, outside of a few forced chuckles at the expense of Brooke’s rather effeminate brother (John Michael Higgins) towards the beginning, the film soon forgets that it wants to be funny and/or tender and/or romantic and then proceeds to fail on every front, especially as an alleged romantic comedy. It even fails to be uneven because it never manages to once establish a tone from which to differ later on. The central relationship isn’t developed beyond a weak prologue and a credit-laden photo montage before jumping into the breakdown, and the characters, especially our photogenic leads, never once convey something greater and true at stake, as if they might have actually been attracted to each other at one point in time for any reason whatsoever. Vaughn gets to crack wise and pout, while Aniston gets to sit pretty... and pout. The dialogue may be realistic, but to no satisfying end, particularly when the audience has to provide their own personal sympathy and bitterness instead of empathizing with those feelings from the main characters.

Favreau and Adams are there to dish out ridiculous relationship advice that reasoning would other debunk, yet our leads continue to obey until their attempts to either woo or dissuade fail or even backfire. Even Brooke’s boss, played by the sickly Davis (what, was Annette Benning busy?), commands her to wax her privates in a last-ditch attempt to earn Gary’s attention (the move itself is actually referred to as “the Telly Savalas”, named after Aniston’s real-life godfather – nice touch). These far-fetched gags of the first half soon subside to the 'sincere' heartbreak, and frankly, it may be just like the real thing, but who wants to pay to sit through all that bickering without any bark or bite? Real-life relationships do not a necessary movie make, and even though it would be best if director Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Down With Love) took things to one extreme or another, the result is not so much an anti-romantic comedy as an non-movie. The couple just is neither authentic enough to care for, nor cruel enough to loathe and despise to a similarly satisfying degree. Here is a film so lacking in direction that its most impressive facet is that it even ran through the projector properly.

Aggressively misleading trailers aside, everything plays out as if the screenwriting debut of Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender was snatched up from indie obscurity and boosted with a big-name cast looking to do something radical in the rom-com field by making one so unfunny and unromantic that you would have to go all the way to a film festival just to find something equally aimless. (The tacked-on ending is only salt on the wound of poor editing, giving the film a truncated feel despite scenes that go on much too long. Just notice how many songs in the credits never once materialize in the movie.) Even Mr. & Mrs. Smith was writer Simon Kinberg’s thesis project, and once hijacked by Brangelina, they still manage to make reasonable entertainment and infuse it with palpable passion. Instead, this feels like a vanity project by commission and a no-win situation for all involved. Is it Gigli? Not quite, but the agony of that endeavor was that it felt like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez had deluded themselves into making some degree of effort, which is more than appears here. If pain with purpose is too much to ask, I would rather just find out when the next showing of United 93 begins.

Some of the more recent rote rom-coms come to mind, such as last March’s Failure To Launch, because at any rate, those wholly predictably and equally hollow sweet-sour confections that tend to have some bite, some zest, some flavor at all and know when to let their supporting cast swoop in and save the day. The background actors managed to land Launch a notch above watchable, but Break-Up seems intent on instead keeping its sizeable support cooped up. Favreau seems to have become the equal of his Swingers co-star by this point, but along with Adams and Bateman, he is trotted out to provide a shoulder and promptly removed, lest any of them actually make an effort. Long and Higgins practically and literally prance around as exaggerated homosexual caricatures, while D’Onofrio and Hauser even fall short of playing their one note between their brief appearances. The admirable Ann-Margret temporarily emerges, either not given a single line or knowing better and keeping her mouth shut, and our own Erik Childr-- er, A Christmas Story’s Peter Billingsley shows up as Adams’ husband, a move probably prompted by little more than his long-standing affiliation with Vaughn and Favreau (he even acts as producer on this project alongside Vince).

Between the inability of the leads to act convincingly and the cultural double-standards of dating, the film entirely sides in favor of the flawless Brooke, without ever hinting at why she might remain with such an inconsiderate prick for so long. Vaughn doesn’t tend to play different characters for different movies, so what may have worked in Wedding Crashers and Mr. & Mrs. Smith last summer simply doesn’t fly here. His schtick doesn’t suit a more mature story, so he dismisses all of our compassion and keeps things simply: he’s obnoxious and takes her for granted, making her the good guy by default. Given the fated destination of the pair, perhaps this film works best as a prequel to Aniston’s previous Chicago-set fiasco, the dreadful Derailed, because between the two films, one can go out on a limb and piece together a character arc that is otherwise absent. She’s almost too lightweight for the silver screen, try as she may to be serious, and should perhaps stick to the safe and shallow, where she can look effortlessly cute without being asked to resemble a mature adult handling substantial situations. Tabloid appeal might bring in an audience, but it certainly can’t keep one.

It wouldn’t be fair to hold every sensible adult relationship movie to such standards as those of 'Annie Hall.' However, as Woody Allen’s character so truthfully reminded us, a relationship is like a shark, that it has to constantly move forward, even towards an inevitable fate. 'The Break-Up' thrashes a bit and then goes nowhere, and by the end, all we have on our hands is a dead shark, and one that’s starting to reek after spending so much time sitting under the limelight.

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originally posted: 06/03/06 06:35:12
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User Comments

12/24/13 Michelle O the butt & side boob shots did NOT makeup for the Aniston/Vaughn verbal abuse 1 stars
3/18/13 Mireya funny movie 4 stars
8/31/11 Layla Why is it that men are "always wrong" in movies? She was manipulative. 2 stars
9/17/10 student of rhetorical criticism @Alejandra how do you think it depicts sexism.Iwhat are the stereotypes author talks about 4 stars
8/16/09 Dkl Underrated, certainly better than the critics general consensus 4 stars
7/12/09 the dork knight Vince acts like a petulent child. Not exactly an equal playing field if you're male. 3 stars
7/06/08 John Millheim Funny, Jen and Vince fighting was a trip 4 stars
8/13/07 Annonomiss Bickering got old. Was it trying to be a comedy or a drama? Elements of both. Skip it. 2 stars
5/24/07 ES Some really good jokes, a great story and terrific performances with an ending that works 4 stars
2/18/07 David Pollastrini jen looked great walking through the house naked! 4 stars
12/29/06 Kimberly The movie got to the end and we were like, "that's it??" I think the ending was really bad 2 stars
12/04/06 Alejandra Depicts the sexism in society today 5 stars
11/26/06 dawna so who thinks they get back together? 4 stars
11/24/06 cody a ok movie with good performance by jennifer and vince, but the ending suck. 2 stars
10/29/06 Alyssa very good movie. but definitly should not be recognized as a comedy. 4 stars
10/25/06 Drew G All of the funny scenes were in the trailer... everything else was just depressing 2 stars
10/23/06 Cara Critics are not giving it enough credit. Was an excellent, yet different movie. 5 stars
9/03/06 Christopher Stucky Left a bad taste... mean-spirited and not very funny. 3 stars
8/26/06 Steve-O Vaughn was hilarious, Aniston was adorable, and it gave me an ending I could respect. 4 stars
8/06/06 Erik Van Sant I'm still amazed I liked this. Vaughn was funny, Aniston was bleh... ballsy ending. 4 stars
6/30/06 jcjs i liked it, funny, real, Jennifer beautiful as usual, Vince great..Chicago, yeh..nice show 4 stars
6/25/06 Alejandro Luna Anniston's lame performnce and weepy girl act is really starting to rattle my cage 1 stars
6/19/06 Mase Aniston=Tanned Skeleton, Vaughn and Favereu=slobby pigs!! otherwise pretty funny 4 stars
6/18/06 Violet Absolutely the best movie in a very long time. Must see for men of all ages. real life 5 stars
6/12/06 Brent I liked the funny parts, but it's a downer - I feel like throwing myself off a bridge now 4 stars
6/11/06 Joe Smaltz two hours of my life I will not recover. Gigli, Ishtar,& Waterworld were more interesting 1 stars
6/08/06 btvs2678 was ok, good rental. If going thru a break up wait to see it or you will be hurting 3 stars
6/07/06 Maxima Cirunay Worth a look; realistic! 4 stars
6/06/06 Christen disappointing-made to look funnier and better than it is-wait til it comes out on video 3 stars
6/05/06 Melina very funny and the fights were painful and hit close to home 4 stars
6/05/06 Lord Jiggy Much funnier than critics are giving it credit for...enjoyable. 4 stars
6/04/06 michael close to real life for some but worth watching 4 stars
6/04/06 Sarah Was unrealistic that they never tried it again or had "make up sex." 4 stars
6/04/06 Roberta Mendlovitz unfortunately a true, very true story see it! 4 stars
6/03/06 San Lamar it had its moments, good to see at least once 4 stars
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  02-Jun-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 17-Oct-2006



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