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Who cares about ‘The Break-Up’?

Vaughn and Aniston play unappealing characters in this awful film. By John Hartl

It’s a chick flick. It’s a guy thing. Actually, “The Break-Up” is a nightmarish mixture of both.

It’s as if the filmmakers set out to turn the central couple in this “romantic comedy” into outrageously sexist stereotypes of ugly Americans. Devoid of charm or spontaneity, they spend an hour and a half encouraging one reaction from the audience: Who could possibly care?

Gary, played by Vince Vaughn, is a video-game-addicted jerk who hates ballet and makes only the most reluctant moves toward washing the dishes following a big dinner party. He’s supposedly in great demand as a Chicago tour guide who kids the driver of his bus by telling everyone she’s a hooker.

Brooke, his doormat girlfriend, played by Jennifer Aniston, is apparently indispensable at her job as an art dealer. But at home in their costly condo, she becomes a screeching nag. And who can blame her? Now that she’s committed herself to living with the guy, she has almost no options.

They meet cute at a baseball game where Gary does everything but stalk Brooke, while ignoring the (understandably peeved) date she’s brought with her. It’s apparently his hard sell that wins Brooke over and causes her to dump her date and move in with him. We never know because the movie omits all the scenes in which he would prove himself anything but abusive.

The characters are introduced, they mysteriously connect with each other, then they hate each other. Estranged as they are, they end up sharing the condo because they can’t afford to move out. It’s a promising idea, though perhaps it’s not so promising to couples who have actually been faced with this dilemma. The novice screenwriters, Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender, search fruitlessly to locate the humor in the situation.

Peyton Reed, director of such delectable bonbons as “Down With Love” and “Bring It On,” is also at a loss here. He tries to keep the mood merry, but Gary and Brooke are fundamentally so unappealing that it’s difficult to sustain interest in them. The bittersweet ending could not be less convincing.

Anniston and Vaughn look stranded. As for the rest of the cast: Rarely have so many talented actors been so shamefully wasted in so many colorless supporting roles. Judy Davis, as Brooke’s bitchy boss, shows off her helmet hair and lipstick-infused lips because she has no character to play. Ann-Margret, cast as Brooke’s mother, is similarly all dressed up with absolutely nowhere to go.

Desperate to introduce a bit of business that will define his nearly non-existent role as Gary’s bossy brother, Vincent D’Onofrio spends most of one scene cleaning his ears. Just as stranded are Jon Favreau as Gary’s best buddy, Joey Lauren Adams as Brooke’s best friend, John Michael Higgins as Brooke’s closeted brother and Justin Long as the gallery’s preoccupied receptionist.

Only Jason Bateman, who introduces himself as Gary and Brooke’s “friend and also their realtor,” manages to make something of his tiny role. He’s been developing a calming, authoritatively center-of-the-hurricane style lately in the television series, “Arrested Development,” and it pays off here in spades.