Vince Vaughn is the best friend a movie comedy could have. He’s funny, hilariously so, while keeping his characters grounded in messy reality. Last summer, he hit a peak with The Wedding Crashers, playing a horn dog reformed by the right woman. The Break-Up, co-starring Jennifer Aniston as the babe who splits when she can’t tame him, isn’t in that playful league. It’s about as playful as a python: Based on a story by Vaughn, who also produces, the film shows what happens when love turns into a weapon of mutual destruction.
Gary (Vaughn) helps his brother (Vincent D’Onofrio) run bus tours in Chicago; he does stand-up for the passengers. Brooke (Aniston) helps her boss (Judy Davis) run an art gallery. They meet at a Cubs game, fall hard, buy a condo together and live happily ever after, for two years. All this happens in the opening credits. Then come the fights. He doesn’t do the dishes unless he’s asked. She doesn’t understand his needs.
They break up, but neither will leave the condo, which director Peyton Reed (Bring It On, yea, Down With Love, nay) turns into a war zone. She dumps him, hoping he’ll change. He says fine, hoping she’ll change. She brings men home, gets a bikini wax (the Telly Savalas) and walks around naked. He brings home a pool table and slob pals. Stalemate.
The Break-Up is the movie on which Vaughn and Aniston famously met and fell in love, to the delight of tabloids everywhere. How ironic, since they mostly shoot daggers at each other. To relieve the bile, Gary and Brooke call in friends to take sides. Joey Lauren Adams plays Addie, Brooke’s sounding board. Jon Favreau plays Johnny O, the buddy with the guts to stand by Gary and still tell him he’s a selfish bastard. Vaughn and Favreau are so money, just like they were in Swingers. Only this time Vaughn’s man-child is forced to take on the demons of maturity and see what he’s made of.
Credit Vaughn and Aniston for dropping the glam act and joining writers Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender in the risky task of turning a formula sex comedy on its empty head. You won’t leave The Break-Up with a skip in your step — it’s more like a knot in your gut. Until a cop-out ending, this is War of the Roses territory, where laughs take no prisoners.