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The Break-Up (June 1/06)

Take away the hype surrounding The Break-Up - most of which seems to involve the relationship that's since formed between stars Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston - and you're left with a flat, thoroughly uneven romantic comedy that fails to deliver both laughs and romance. Much like 1999's The Story of Us, The Break-Up forces two charismatic stars to behave unpleasantly for the majority of its running time; as such, there's just no getting past the distinctly awkward and uncomfortable vibe that pervades almost every aspect of the film.

The movie starts out promisingly enough, however, with an admittedly charming meet-cute between Gary (Vaughn) and Brooke (Aniston) at a baseball game. Time passes, and we see that Gary and Brooke have settled into a comfortable routine - with Brooke generally forced to pick up the slack from Gary's lazy and self-centered ways. Since neither Gary nor Brooke is willing to move out of their expensive apartment, the two are forced to become roommates - a situation that results in many, many fights and arguments.

Because both Vaughn and Aniston are essentially just riffing on their previously-established personas, with Vaughn once again stepping into the shoes of a fast-talking jerk and Aniston channeling her Friends character, Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender's screenplay doesn't contain a whole lot in the way of character development. That the break-up is entirely Gary's fault is particularly indicative of this, as the two characters essentially come off as stereotypical, one-dimensional figures that would fit right in on an episode of Dr. Phil (ie Gary is a sports-loving lout who'd rather play videogames than help out with housework, while Brooke is patient and loving and has virtually no faults).

And although the movie is being marketed as a comedy, there's a serious lack of laughs here - a problem that's exacerbated by the fact that virtually every single humorous bit has been spoiled in the film's trailer. The dramatic elements within Garelick and Lavender's script admittedly feel authentic - a typically brainless Hollywood romcom this is not - but such moments are simply out of place amongst the broadly comedic sequences and the overly quirky periphery characters. Having said that, it's hard not to enjoy the presence of folks like Jon Favreau, Cole Hauser, and Vincent D'Onofrio (!) in small but effective supporting roles.

The Break-Up is surely going to go down as one of summer 2006's more notable disappointments, particularly given just how promising that laugh-out-loud trailer was. But audiences expecting another Wedding Crashers are in for quite a shock, as there's nothing terribly compelling about watching likable stars argue for close to two hours.

out of