The Break-Up (2006) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

If you don't recognize the title, you probably remember that this is the Vaughn-Aniston comedy.

Although The Break-Up was a solid hit, critics had a lot of trouble with this film, perhaps because it is a very difficult one to pigeonhole. Given the stars, one expects either a traditional romantic comedy or an edgy black comedy about a disintegrating romance, ala The War of the Roses. In fact it is neither, and it would disappoint people expecting either.

  • If you expect something like The War of the Roses, a black comedy which serves as a vehicle for two hours of Vince Vaughn riffs, you'll be disappointed to see that Vaughn doesn't actually clown around much, and that the situations portrayed in the film are actually quite realistic rather than comically exaggerated. The good news, at least for me, is that The Break-Up doesn't have an ugly underlying tone like The War of the Roses. Sometimes it is sweet, sometimes mean, sometimes ugly, sometimes funny, sometimes sad. I suppose it's a lot like real break-ups.
  • If you hope for a rom-com, you'll find that this film is neither very funny nor very romantic, and unlike mainstream rom-coms, includes neither a fairy-tale atmosphere nor a happy ending. It portrays the way people really behave in these sorts of tense situations when a love once new has grown old and may not survive. It's actually kind of close to the romantic comedy formula, and could have been converted to a traditional romantic comedy with some minor tweaking and a happy ending, but that's not where the creative team wanted to go with the film.

What kind of movie is it then? It is basically a romantic drama which presents a very realistic look at a break-up. The parties end their sexual relationship but are forced to live together until they can dispose of their condo. The play the same game of pull-me-close, push-me-away that good people often play in this sort of difficult situation. Will they get back together? Are they breaking up because they want to break up, or are they using the break-up as a tool to alter the other's behavior? Frustratingly, at least for me, they never seem to be ready to forgive one another at the same time. She finally makes a conciliatory overture and he misunderstands it. Then he makes one, and she has changed her mind about reconciliation.

It does have some good humor in it, but the jokes occur naturally within the context of the characters. Vaughn plays a witty Chicago tour guide whose bus and boat tours always have a waiting line because he does some funny schtick while he's describing the sights. The character's profession allows Vaughn to be very funny while his character is working, and since the character is a quick-witted guy, some of that carries over to the rest of his life as well. But most of the time he is engaged in serious, even contemplative discussions about what is going wrong in his life, or various schemes directed against his ex-. After several false starts, he finally gains enough self-awareness to realize that the intense emotional impact of the break-up is a wake-up call for him, a chance to be less jaded and self-centered. By the end of the film he is actively trying to make himself into a better person. In other words, this is a surprisingly sincere film about people like those we know, perhaps like ourselves, caught in uncomfortable situations we are all too familiar with. We identify with the couple and hope they can work it out, but like the Cub fans portrayed by Vaughn's crowd in this film, we realize that we may be backing a loser.

It's not a mean-spirited film, as some critics suggested, but it does have long stretches without laughs and, if you react as I did, it will leave you feeling ... well ... sad. I was pleasantly surprised to see Aniston and Vaughn give believable performances in multi-dimensional roles which were credibly written. In fact, this a very competent film in many ways, and the DVD has plenty of extra features and additional footage, but film appreciation is all about expectations, isn't it? People just don't expect to leave a Vince Vaughn film with a wistful tear in their eye.



  • Commentary by: Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston
  • Alternate ending
  • Deleted scenes
  • Extended scenes
  • Outtakes
  • Improv with Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau
  • "Three Brothers": a tour of Chicago


Jennifer Aniston is seen completely naked from behind, but she is not in focus at the time.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: two out of four stars. James Berardinelli 2/4, Roger Ebert 2/4.

  • British consensus:  two stars out of four. Mail 4/10, Telegraph 4/10, Independent 6/10, Guardian 4/10, Times 4/10, Sun 8/10, Mirror 6/10, FT 4/10, BBC 2/5.


The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It was budgeted at $52 million for production. It was a solid hit, grossing $100 million in the USA and $200 million worldwide. It had a very healthy $39 million opening weekend.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C, not an especially funny film, except in spurts, but a surprisingly insightful and honest one.

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