Saturday, January 27, 2007

Irony and celeb gossip can take you only so far: "The Break-Up"

And really, that's not very far at all. Still, I'm curious ... did they ever name the Jennifer Aniston-Vince Vaughn couple? Vinnifer? Jence? Dipshitz?

I'll confess to being curious when this so-called romantic comedy came out last year. Vince Vaughn can be funny, of course, and Jennifer Aniston is easy to look at. But I told myself that if the reviews weren't good, I'd pass on making this a theater experience. They weren't, and I did.

Alas, in the ongoing quest to find movies My Radiant Bride and I can tolerate together, Netflix sent "The Break-Up" our way. Since my wife has been churning through movies lately -- keeping our per-flick cost down -- I didn't mind a middling movie like this in the mix.

And middling it was, which is a shame because there are real issues at play here. Not the absurd premise of both people in a split couple refusing to move out. That's just dumb, and not funny dumb, either. But scenes such as Vaughn's character being confused because he grudgingly gave decided to help Aniston's character, only to have her be mad because he didn't "want" to help her. Of course he didn't want to help! But he did it, right? Calm down!

Sadly, that's about the only time I sympathized with Vaughn -- looking worse every year -- in this movie. Basically, after the two break up, the lackluster "War of the Roses"-type hijinks amplify. Friends and relatives get dragged into it, including Aniston's is-he-gay, a-capella-singing brother, that guy who played Letterman in "The Late Shift" and is in all the Christopher Guest movies. He's funny, as usual, but it's a bit part. Otherwise, we get Jason Bateman, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jon Favreau and Ben Affleck's girlfriend from "Chasing Amy" dancing around the fringes.

(I'd be remiss if I didn't mention another supporting player: Peter Billingsley. Yes, that Peter Billingsley, Ralphie from "A Christmas Story." Yeah, I didn't know we was still working, either, and apparently he doesn't use his real name anymore. He did here, but you probably have as much chance of recognizing him as I did. It was only after the fact that I thought, "Yeah, I guess I can see it." In any case, weird.)

As you might expect, Vaughn mugs for the camera and Anniston furrows her brow and whines. She's much more tolerable, with Vaughn OK only when he does his usual rat-a-tat riffing, i.e. "Is that how you want to play it? Because I can play it like that. I'll play it like Lionel Richie, 'All Night Long', lady." Still, nothing approaches the "Old School" or "Wedding Crashers" level, lending further credence to the thought -- shared by this guy -- that Vaughn can't handle the lead and should still to playing the comedic foil, either in a duo or an ensemble.

As for Aniston, like I said, easy to look at. And between the two leads, she's the one who can actually act. ("The Good Girl," and she was OK in "Along Came Polly," too.) That distinction and the idea of her being stuck with Vaughn -- here and in real life -- leave me sympathetic to her plight these days. But at least her ex didn't leave her for someone who's hotter, right?


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