Break-Up, The

Reviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 06/05/06 10:38:53

"You're not so money and you don't even know it."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

Gary (Vince Vaughn) is a selfish dweeb. Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) is a passive-aggressive wimp. Why are these two even together?

Don't look to The Break-Up to find out. Apparently building on nothing deeper than a meet-cute at a ball game (in which Gary goofs on Brooke's plaid-shorted date and, by extension, her taste in men), these two seem to have found themselves sharing a generous condo and posing for a variety of look-how-cute-we-are-together photos without actually knowing each other. One hectic night, Gary just wants to decompress in front of ESPN and Brooke has had to clean, cook and get everything ready for a dinner for their prospective mutual in-laws. She wants him to help out. More, she wants him to want to help out. I shouldn't have to ask, you should just know, goes the female argument. I'm not a fucking mind-reader, goes the male argument.

It's all extremely banal and probably shouldn't be compared to such earlier autopsies of love as Alan Parker's Shoot the Moon, to say nothing of Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage. It's meant as a star vehicle for Vince Vaughn, who is responsible for the film on several levels. He has commissioned a film around his usual feckless persona that attempts to insert that persona into a real-world romantic situation, but the result is like expecting Jerry Seinfeld to function inside a Scorsese movie: a very different New York state of mind. (The Break-Up is set in Chicago, where Gary works as a tour guide; his tours serve to remind us what city we're in, since we'd scarcely know otherwise.)

By now it's clear that Aniston is engaging within a tiny parameter of emotion (she was embarrassing, and looked embarrassed, in Derailed); her personality is sitcom-scaled, and it's hard to take Brooke's resentments seriously when they're delivered exactly as they were on Friends, where the laugh track obliged Aniston. Vaughn dominates the movie rather flaccidly, shambling from home to work to barroom, unable even to work up much rapport with erstwhile surefire screen pal Jon Favreau. Such usually on-the-nose performers as Vincent D'Onofrio, Judy Davis, and John Michael Higgins labor pointlessly. The movie begins and ends with predictable oldies already used to better, darker effect in Shaun of the Dead and Grosse Pointe Blank, respectively. Note to Peyton Reed or whoever supervised the soundtrack: Don't begin with the closing tune of a superior film which makes me wish I'd stayed home and watched that again and don't end with the opening tune of a superior film which makes me regret the time not spent at home with that.

I note with some curiosity that the movie grossed $38 million over the opening weekend. Why, exactly? No competition? Residual vibes from "Wedding Crashers"? I'd read enough about "The Break-Up" to expect it not to be the zany film it's being advertised as, but given the heavy involvement of Vince Vaughn, who is not a stupid man, I'd expected something ... smarter. Something that didn't boil down to stereotypes across the board, puerile one-upmanship games, and an utter failure to explain why, indeed, these two even were together.

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