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The Break-Up Clocks in at 100 Minutes Too Long

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2006 5 May
  • COMMENTS
<i>The Break-Up</i> Clocks in at 100 Minutes Too Long

Release Date:  June 2, 2006
Rating:  PG-13 (sexual content, some nudity and language)
Genre:  Romantic comedy
Run Time:  106 min.
Director:  Peyton Reed
Actors:  Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, Joey Lauren Adams, Judy Davis, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Justin Long

If it wasn't for the comedic chemistry of Swingers co-stars Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau or a hilarious impromptu rendition of Yes' "Owner of a Lonely Heart" at a rather dismal family dinner, The Break-Up wouldn't have been funny at all.

There, I've said it - now we can move on to the "why" of the matter.

Sadly, The Break-Up is yet another instance where the movie's trailer promised far more than the finished product could deliver. See, I actually expected the film's premise - the aftermath of a break-up where neither Gary (Vaughn) nor Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) want to move out of their jointly owned condo - to provide at least a belly laugh or two. But instead of that, all you're really seeing here are the juvenile retaliation methods (Brooke blaring Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" while throwing his clothes on the floor, Gary moving an over-sized pool table in the dining room against Brooke's repeated wishes) of two people who never really belonged together in the first place.

In fact, the only clue we have that Gary and Brooke were ever happy together was during a brief photo montage in the beginning. Ultimately, it's the failure to establish more of their rapport that makes their break-up equally unremarkable. Unlike the majority of romantic comedies (think When Harry Met Sally, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days), you're not actually rooting for the couple to get together in the end. Instead, you're just hoping they move on and learn something in the process so the closing credits will roll faster.

But that's not to say there isn't any redeeming value here. Guys could consider The Break-Up the Cliff's Notes for how not to behave in a relationship. While it's never established exactly how old Gary is, it's evident pretty quickly that this thirty-something really needs to grow up. Since Gary is rarely shown working, he needs to fill his time with other activities. So, he spends the majority of his days playing video games, drinking beer and watching his beloved Cubs, while Brooke holds down a respectable job at an art museum, cooks dinner and keeps the place clean. Of course, this could be construed as a female empowerment cliché, but in the context of the story, it's not all that surprising when Brooke wants to call it quits. Hmm, ya think?

There's also not much in the way of subplots to keep things moving along. Instead, there's a few quick scenes where we're introduced to Brooke's eccentric boss Marilyn Dean (Judy Davis) and an even more eccentric, "is-this-a-guy-or-girl?" receptionist Christopher (Justin Long) who simply don't understand why Brooke's been so glum around the office after she and Gary broke up. We also meet Maddie, (Joey Lauren Adams) who's presumably Brooke's best friend but couldn't have less in common with her. And then there is the way-too-long scene where Gary, Brooke and a bunch of their friends play Pictionary. Who actually plays Pictionary in 2006?

These supporting characters, aside from Johnny O (Favreau), a bartender who provides the worst - but extremely entertaining relationship advice for Gary - are grossly underutilized and don't add much, if anything, to the movie's cause. Basically, if they were omitted, many of us probably wouldn't have even noticed.

Then, just when you think things couldn't be any worse, along comes the slapped-together ending. While I certainly give the screenwriters props for not going the easy, predictable route, it's painful to watch (aside from that great Chicago backdrop).

Basically, when it's all said and done The Break-Up is nothing more than a really long sitcom with poorly conceived characters that most people couldn't care less about - yet alone identify with. And in a summer filled with a plethora of attention-grabbing action movies, this isn't the welcome, feel-good date movie diversion that most audiences would hope for.
 
CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  There are several instances of alcohol use scattered throughout the movie.
  • Language/Profanity:  Plenty of the usual cuss words, including the PG-13 allotment of f-words. But even more troubling is the abundance of profanity of a religious nature - god---- seems to be Gary's favorite word as it's said more than 10 times.
  • Sex/Nudity:  While there's no actual sexual acts displayed, there's a scene where Gary's being entertained by several scantily clad women. Later on, hoping that she'll make Gary jealous, Brooke walks through the living room naked - her backside is shown briefly.
  • Violence:  None.