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THE BREAK-UP (PG-13) (2006)

Universal

Official Site

Director: Peyton Reed

Producers: Scott Stuber, Vince Vaughn

Written by: Jeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender, Vince Vaughn

Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, Joey Lauren Adams, Jon Favreau, Vincent D’Onofrio, Cole Hauser, Peter Billingsley, Jason Bateman, Justin Long, Judy Davis, John Michael Higgins

Rating:


I’ve reviewed a ton of bad mainstream comedies in the last two and a half years. The worst and most repulsive of them usually star Ashton Kutcher (Guess Who and A Lot Like Love). Most recently, the curse continued with Just My Luck.

And now, The Break-Up with Vince Vaughn (also co-producer and co-writer), who is at an all-time career high after getting his comedic groove back in Old School, followed by such hits as Starsky And Hutch, Dodgeball, Mr. And Mrs. Smith, and, of course, The Wedding Crashers. It seems anything Vaughn is a part of these days turns to gold, save for maybe Be Cool.

While my Hollywood roommate and fellow UT RTF alum, Jason Elliott, and I were driving to the San Diego Comic Con last July, Vaughn himself was on a local radio station promoting The Wedding Crashers, but what caught my interest was when he began talking about this movie, which he called an “anti-romantic comedy” also starring Jennifer Aniston. This would be a movie that’s not about a couple getting together, but about a couple breaking up.

Well, that’s interesting. And it’s not something Hollywood conglomerates want to bet on, especially with their big summer tent-poles. But that’s what I loved about this extremely hilarious but also surprisingly grounded film about the systematic melt-down of what seems to start as an average heterosexual relationship. So you have Gary (Vaughn) and Brooke (Anniston) as the star-crossed couple: They get together pre-opening credits, and by the end of the first act, they’ve broken up. The problem is that neither one of them wants to move out of their co-owned condo. Brooke tries to get Gary to break, beginning a battle of wills. If I was doing the Hollywood pitch I’d probably call it a “friendlier” War Of The Roses.

Gary and Brooke are made to be very likable people by the performances of Vaughn and Aniston, who both do a great job of showing us the backgrounds and motivations of their characters. But as couples sometimes are when they have their petty differences or skirmishes, they are too stubborn to put these things aside in order to move forward with each other.

The Break-Up features, in my humble opinion, the best and strongest supporting cast I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. Pretty much every supporting player does dynamite work here, and I was left in complete and total awe of it. It’s refreshing because a lot of movies these days do not have supporting casts that are this exceptional. Justin Long (current Mac computer spokesman) who I absolutely loathed in Waiting and sort of tolerated in Dodgeball, morphs for the first time into a different and entertaining character, proving that he does have range. Hauser and the always eclectic D’Onofrio portray Gary’s brothers, the ridiculously sleaze-ball Lupus and stuff-shirt Dennis respectively.

Basically these are three-dimensional characters and they ascend mere supporting player archetypes and stereotypes and leave an impression on you. Even the actors who only have a few lines or a few scenes such as “Arrested Development’s” Jason Bateman, or A Christmas Story’s Peter Billingsley make the most of them, and nothing is phoned in.

The other thing I wanted to say in support of this movie is that the comedy is great. The boundaries of taste are never once broken or even pushed. Not once will you hear a fart, or any reference or visual gags pertaining to defecation, ejaculation, urination, or pretty much any old gross gag or gimmick that you normally see in American comedies today. Thank God for a comedy that takes a risk by NOT indulging in these elements and avoids an interest in the scatological. And it doesn’t take away from the movie at all. I think it just makes it even more superior and exceptional. I wouldn’t exactly call it “high-brow,” but mainstream comedies today have become so dirty that I feel it’s important to note how relatively clean and tame this movie is while still bringing the laughs and hilarity.

I think the ultimate question is how audiences will take it. In the past and most recent work of Vaughn I mentioned above, you have some pretty harmless and carefree escapist entertainment. This movie, as hilarious and entertaining as it is, has a quality of startling weight and gravitas. I think the conflict will ultimately turn out to be that the subject matter might end up hitting too close to home, and that the movie isn’t exactly delivering the carefree escape from everyday life a la The Wedding Crashers that general movie-goers might’ve been hoping for. Overall, what this movie does is pretty fucking ballsy, and I was the only one openly and loudly applauding at the end of the press screening.

So, mazeltov to The Break-Up for delivering one of the best and most realistic mainstream comedies in years.

—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



Pink Floyd

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