THE BREAK-UP

PG-13
Reviews

Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) and Gary (Vince Vaughn) meet cute before the title and credits of The Break-Up, and their entire courtship (including the decision to buy a condo and move in together) is played out in a series of snapshots shown under the credits. For the next hour or so-that is, throughout most of this film-Brooke and Gary argue and torment each other with a series of dirty tricks. Eventually they break up and decide to sell their condo. And that's it.

No, there's no lovey-dovey getting-back-together-again for Brooke and Gary. And, despite the coy hype over the possible real-life romance between Aniston and Vaughn, the couple they're playing on screen emit absolutely no sexual chemistry, nor do they display any understanding of what the opposite sex is all about. The arguments these two have are too banal to be believed: " I want you to want to wash the dishes," says she. "I work all day and come home for some down time," says he.

Because Vince Vaughn is an engaging and funny man-although still way too hyper for anyone over the age of 12-there are some truly funny bits in The Break-Up. Almost all of them have Gary interacting with other guys: his brothers Dennis (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Lupus (Cole Hauser), co-owners of the 3 Brothers Bus Tours in Chicago; his weird drinking buddy, Johnny O (Jon Favreau), and Brooke's fey brother Richard (John Michael Higgins) who, unlike the macho, pool-playing types Gary hangs with, sings pop songs with a group called the Tone Rangers.

Paired with Aniston, however, Vaughn practically dissolves in flop sweat; he works that hard to get a laugh-from her, or from anybody. It's not entirely Aniston's fault that she rolls around this movie like a lead balloon. The script-based on a story by her co-star and screenwriters Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender-robs her character of any appealing personality and/or motivation. Giving Brooke a sympathetic female friend (Joey Lauren Adams) and a feisty boss (Judy Davis as deliciously droll art gallery owner) doesn't begin to balance out the male-female conflicts in The Break-Up. It's purely a guy's-eye view of the battle of the sexes. And the guys who put this one together are obviously not optimistic for a truce. Not even the tacked-on ending, hinting at some future sparks between Brooke and Gary, can lighten the sturm und drang in this break-up.

-Shirley Sealy