The Break-Up is indeed the refreshingly anti-romantic comedy that it purports to be. But somehow in eliminating most of the clichés, some of the comic energy is zapped as well.
Honestly, not a whole lot happens in The Break-Up. It"s basically the tale of two people who are heading towards the tail-end of a relationship. Gary (Vince Vaughn), a Chicago tour bus guide, is an affable fellow, who loves his Cubs and playing video games, while his girlfriend of two years, art dealer Brooke (Jennifer Aniston), tries her best to get him to appreciate her more. Ultimately, she gets fed up and calls it quits. The next hour and a half is then spent dealing with the repercussions since neither are willing to move out of their co-owned condo. Brooke thinks maybe by playing tough, Gary will realize his error and make amends. But Gary plays it even harder and soon the two are more estranged then ever. Does any of this sound familiar to you? It should. The Break-Up is probably about 99 percent relatable to anyone who has ever been in a relationship. But can these two crazy kids work it out?
If it weren"t for Vaughn--who, with his trademark rapid-fire delivery, can usually get himself out of any jam by talking around the situation--the movie wouldn"t be nearly as entertaining. He particularly excels when doing extended improvisational scenes, either with longtime pal and Swingers co-star Jon Favreau, who plays Gary"s bartender best friend, or by himself, playing Street Fight on his Xbox. Aniston is entirely appealing but is once again relegated to playing the straight man, since, you know, she barely gets a word in edgewise around Vaughn. It's just a shame we can't see some of her Friends energy. Of course, the chemistry between the two real-life lovebirds is palpable, but unfortunately, most of the film has them at odds. The best love connection is the opening sequence titles, showing how happy Gary and Brooke once were through snapshots. In supporting roles, Jason Bateman, as the couple"s smarmy realtor, Judy Davis, as Brooke"s queeeeen bitch of a boss, and John Michael Higgins, as Brooke"s a cappella singing brother, are all stand outs.
A good romantic comedy is really hard to come by these days, so kudos have to go out to Vaughn for trying to do something different. The actor/co-writer/producer came up with the idea and stuck by his principals of basing the movie in reality. He also picked a capable director, Peyton Reed (Bring It On), to helm his little opus. Reed keeps things zinging nicely--although just turning the camera on Vaughn and letting him go or framing the exquisite Aniston is nearly enough. No, the real problem with The Break-Up is that it just isn"t as balls-out comedic as you want it to be. Sure, you"ll laugh your ass off at the little vignette moments with some of the supporting characters, but then things get bogged down when its just Brooke and Gary. The two actors actually handle the emotional core of the movie very well, but it"s really not that funny to break up. It"s painful, in fact. So, in that regard The Break-Up suffers from an identity crisis--it"s neither all-out dark comedy like War of the Roses or deeply serious like The Squid and the Whale.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.