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Awesome: 2.94%
Worth A Look49.02%
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Pretty Crappy: 29.41%
Sucks: 8.82%

11 reviews, 36 user ratings

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Break-Up, The
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by Dawn Taylor

"It ain't "The Wedding Crashers 2." Get over it."
4 stars

Someone has to fly in the face of the almighty TomatoMeter, and I'm just the gal to do it. I enjoyed "The Break-up" and I'm not afraid to admit it. You wanna make something of it?

Director Peyton Reed has a solid track record of smart, unique and acerbic entertainments that, admittedly, are not to every taste he directed episodes of "Mr. Show" and "Upright Citizens Brigade," for example. His sunny/sharp cheerleader movie, "Bring It On," was ten times as clever as it had any right to be, and his Rock Hudson/Doris Day homage, "Down With Love" celebrated every giddy pleasure of the original films with wit, sophistication and just the right amount of parody.

Intelligent comedy always divides audiences and all of these projects, despite their brilliance, had detractors. "Mr. Show," the HBO series starring David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, showcased the type of comedy that one either finds hilarious or off-putting, and the cable series featuring members of the improv group Upright Citizens Brigade demanded attention and thought, with a central theme for each episode connecting the various sketches in surprisingly cerebral ways. As for Reed's big screen 60's rom-com starring red-hot stars Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger, it seemed to confuse as many critics as it entertained the Chicago Tribune's Michael Wilmington described "Down with Love" as "labored whimsy and mimicry." Elsewhere, Salon's Stephanie Zacharek acknowledged that the film was a "pitch perfect imitation" and "a passel of visual delights," yet took the film to task for being too detailed of an homage admitting in the course of her review that she hated the original Day/Hudson films ("Those gags were squaresville even in the early '60s," she writes) and condemning "Down with Love" for, well, getting it right.

A clue as to why some critics dislike Reed's films comes in Variety's review of "Bring It On," a film which divided reviewers straight down the middle. Critic Robert Koehler writes that the "comic tone moves in two jarring directions" compare this statement to many of the early reviews of "The Break-Up," with critics kvetching about the film's "borderline-schizophrenic tone [which] regularly undercuts both the nasty, biting humor and weepy sentimentality" (Nick Schrager, Slant). Elsewhere, Peter Rainer of the Christian Science Monitor called the film's advertising which, naturally, highlights nothing but jokes "often intentionally misleading," a charge echoed by Variety's Brian Lowry, who said that it was "misleadingly marketed as a boisterous comedy."

As one colleague of mine put it, it sounds like they were expecting "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and got angry when the film turned out to be something else.

What "The Break-Up" dares to do, the thing that seems to have confused some of its critics, is portray the pointlessly roundabout arguing and painful, juvenile behavior that accompany the end of many relationships with utter authenticity, all within the context of an adult comedy. Much of it isn't pretty and, if you've ever had a particularly nasty, protracted break-up yourself, it rings horribly true. Which doesn't make the funny parts any less funny but many people, critics included, don't want to be made to feel uncomfortable by movies, and they tend to confuse "it made me vaguely anxious" with "it was a bad movie." And even film critics can be victims of their own expectations, feeling let down by a film that doesn't deliver what they expected based on the pre-publicity.

The real criticism that ought to be leveled at the film is that it attributes most of the bad behavior to the male half of the equation, a Chicago tour operator named Gary (Vince Vaughn). It's not that his relationship crimes are too over-the-top, because they aren't we've all known men who are utterly self-centered, who unthinkingly expect their partner to be the cook/housekeeper/social secretary while holding down a full-time job of her own, and who passive-aggressively get even a simple trip to grocery store wrong because they just don't give a shit.

No, the one real problem with the film is that his soon-to-be ex Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) is given an almost free ride. Her only flaws seem to be that she wouldn't let Gary put a pool table in their apartment and that she's been abetting his bad behavior by never standing up for herself until this point. This makes for a rather lopsided battle, with the two of them living together in the condo they now must sell and Gary despite loving Brooke and feeling genuine hurt over the breakup taking the entire film to figure out that he's every bit the "insensitive prick" that Brooke labels him. While making the man the bad guy is a staple of romantic comedies (and this, despite its tenor, solidly resides in rom-com territory) "The Break-Up" would have been better served by giving Brooke equal blame for the failure of their relationship.

Vaughn does here what he does best, doing the "lovable asshole" shtick that threatens to turn him into a caricature if he continues it much longer. Many of his better scenes appear improvised, particularly when he shares the screen with long-time pal Jon Favreau as his plain-speaking best friend. In fact, most of the best set-pieces are attributable to the numerous secondary characters, who are deliciously overcast for the small roles they play in addition to Favreau, there's John Michael Higgins as Brooke's not-fooling-anyone closeted gay brother, Joey Lauren Adams as Brooke's married best pal, Jason Bateman as the couple's realtor buddy, Anne-Margret as Brooke's mother, Cole Hauser and Vincent D'Onofrio as Gary's business-partner brothers, and the delightful Judy Davis as Brooke's boss, a brittle art gallery owner. The segments featuring these actors offer a much-needed lightness that balances the darker-toned moments when Brooke and Gary spit out the sort of raw, soul-exposing truths that come out as love goes south. They aren't, however, enough to turn the movie into the rowdy "Old School/Wedding Crashers" comedy that some viewers may expect.

It's a perfectly good film, with fine performances by all involved, and much smarter than the trailer would lead you to believe for those willing to put aside the advertising and walk into the theater with no expectations, the reward is an intelligent comedy that shines a truthful light on the fools we make of ourselves during a relationship's last, dying gasps. How this could possibly disappoint anyone other than hardcore Adam Sandler fans is a mystery.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14686&reviewer=413
originally posted: 06/02/06 15:18:02
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User Comments

12/23/13 Michelle O the butt & side boob shots did NOT makeup for the Aniston/Vaughn verbal abuse 1 stars
3/17/13 Mireya funny movie 4 stars
8/30/11 Layla Why is it that men are "always wrong" in movies? She was manipulative. 2 stars
9/16/10 student of rhetorical criticism @Alejandra how do you think it depicts sexism.Iwhat are the stereotypes author talks about 4 stars
8/16/09 Dkl Underrated, certainly better than the critics general consensus 4 stars
7/11/09 the dork knight Vince acts like a petulent child. Not exactly an equal playing field if you're male. 3 stars
7/06/08 John Millheim Funny, Jen and Vince fighting was a trip 4 stars
8/13/07 Annonomiss Bickering got old. Was it trying to be a comedy or a drama? Elements of both. Skip it. 2 stars
5/23/07 ES Some really good jokes, a great story and terrific performances with an ending that works 4 stars
2/17/07 David Pollastrini jen looked great walking through the house naked! 4 stars
12/28/06 Kimberly The movie got to the end and we were like, "that's it??" I think the ending was really bad 2 stars
12/03/06 Alejandra Depicts the sexism in society today 5 stars
11/25/06 dawna so who thinks they get back together? 4 stars
11/23/06 cody a ok movie with good performance by jennifer and vince, but the ending suck. 2 stars
10/28/06 Alyssa very good movie. but definitly should not be recognized as a comedy. 4 stars
10/24/06 Drew G All of the funny scenes were in the trailer... everything else was just depressing 2 stars
10/22/06 Cara Critics are not giving it enough credit. Was an excellent, yet different movie. 5 stars
9/02/06 Christopher Stucky Left a bad taste... mean-spirited and not very funny. 3 stars
8/25/06 Steve-O Vaughn was hilarious, Aniston was adorable, and it gave me an ending I could respect. 4 stars
8/06/06 Erik Van Sant I'm still amazed I liked this. Vaughn was funny, Aniston was bleh... ballsy ending. 4 stars
6/29/06 jcjs i liked it, funny, real, Jennifer beautiful as usual, Vince great..Chicago, yeh..nice show 4 stars
6/24/06 Alejandro Luna Anniston's lame performnce and weepy girl act is really starting to rattle my cage 1 stars
6/19/06 Mase Aniston=Tanned Skeleton, Vaughn and Favereu=slobby pigs!! otherwise pretty funny 4 stars
6/17/06 Violet Absolutely the best movie in a very long time. Must see for men of all ages. real life 5 stars
6/12/06 Brent I liked the funny parts, but it's a downer - I feel like throwing myself off a bridge now 4 stars
6/10/06 Joe Smaltz two hours of my life I will not recover. Gigli, Ishtar,& Waterworld were more interesting 1 stars
6/07/06 btvs2678 was ok, good rental. If going thru a break up wait to see it or you will be hurting 3 stars
6/06/06 Maxima Cirunay Worth a look; realistic! 4 stars
6/05/06 Christen disappointing-made to look funnier and better than it is-wait til it comes out on video 3 stars
6/05/06 Melina very funny and the fights were painful and hit close to home 4 stars
6/04/06 Lord Jiggy Much funnier than critics are giving it credit for...enjoyable. 4 stars
6/03/06 michael close to real life for some but worth watching 4 stars
6/03/06 Sarah Was unrealistic that they never tried it again or had "make up sex." 4 stars
6/03/06 Roberta Mendlovitz unfortunately a true, very true story see it! 4 stars
6/03/06 San Lamar it had its moments, good to see at least once 4 stars
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  02-Jun-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 17-Oct-2006



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