The Break-Up 

Feel-bad date movie

Genre: Feel-bad date movie

The pitch: Slobby Chicago tour guide Gary (Vince Vaughn) and high-strung art gallery worker Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) call it quits on their mismatched relationship, but refuse to vacate their shared condo. Since each secretly wants to stay together, we see more bitter angst than vengeful pranks.

Money shots: Brooke cranks up Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" while throwing Gary's clothes out of their bedroom. Gary suffers through Brooke's brother's (John Michael Higgins) a cappella band rehearsing "Boogie Nights" in her room. While playing video games, Gary launches into regular-guy spiel that turns Brooke's latest date into Gary's new best friend. Gary publicly surrenders his bowling shirt when kicked out of their couples league.

Celebrity cameos: Some prominent actors get surprisingly little to do, like Ann-Margaret, who turns up and barely speaks for a single scene as Brooke's mother, or "Arrested Development's" Jason Bateman, who delivers a hilarious speech as a Realtor but otherwise just stands around. Jon Favreau gets more screen time as Gary's best friend, and their overlapping banter deliberately evokes Favreau and Vaughn's breakthrough with Swingers.

Flesh factor: Brooke attempts to pique Gary's interest, after getting a "Telly Savalas" bikini wax, by taking a nude stroll through the condo, offering a glimpse of derriere before going out of focus. Subsequent scenes, like Gary's game of strip poker and Brooke's boss (Judy Davis) sketching a male nude model, are more modestly edited to ensure the PG-13 rating.

Best line: Gary compares Brooke's housework to Michelangelo painting "The Sixteenth Chapel."

Product Placement: Based on Gary and Brooke's beverages of choice, The Break-Up demonstrates the timeless battle between Budweiser and Diet Pepsi. Gary plays so many video games, it's like seeing ads for PlayStation 2.

Fashion statements: Despite playing a Chicagoan, Aniston glows with one of the classic movie-star suntans, on a par with George Hamilton's -- maybe she wears little, monochromatic outfits to show it off. Gary's more colorful in Cuban shirts and T-shirts that advertise his Polish pride.

Off-Screen Controversy: Not only did Aniston endure a hugely public break-up of her own when husband Brad Pitt took up with Angelina Jolie, she's now reportedly an on-the-rebound item with co-star Vaughn. Given that Pitt and Jolie hooked up on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith -- which co-starred Vaughn -- I bet Vaughn arranged the whole thing as a plot to get with Aniston.

The bottom line: Vaughn and Aniston gamely attempt to emote beyond their usual screen persona, and The Break-Up subverts the rom-com cliché that opposites attract. But the film isn't funny enough to be a good comedy or serious enough to be a good drama, so it ends in the mushy middle. Worse, it's helped inspire the trend of compound names for celebrity couples, like "Brangelina" and now "Vaughniston." Can't we at least break those up?

2 stars.

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Recent Comments

  • Re: Fresh air

    • Local band Manchester Orchestra, who provided the soundtrack, probably would have appreciated a shout-out.

    • on June 29, 2016
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