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MOVIE REVIEW- Assinine Aniston:<span class="Apple-converted-space">&nbsp; </span>Giving divorce a bad name

There's no winner in the battle of the sexes, according to The Break-Up, a romantic comedy, or anti-romantic comedy, starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn in what could be a foreshadowing of their own joint future.

Here's a party game to play after The Break-Up comes out on DVD. Get together with four friends and each of you watch a different 20-minute segment of the movie, then discuss it. You won't believe you've all been viewing parts of the same whole.

It doesn't take 20 minutes for things to go sour after Brooke (Aniston) and Gary (Vaughn) "meet cute" at a Cubs game. Two years pass in a montage during the credits, then we see them at work. Gary is a tour guide, in business with his two brothers (Vincent d'Onofrio, Cole Hauser) in a company called Three Brothers. Brooke works in the upscale Marilyn Dean (Judy Davis) Gallery, owned by a shrew with a heart  of gold.

At home in their condo, life is less than perfect. Gary takes Brooke for granted. When at the end of a long workday she prepares a fancy dinner for their families, he only wants to watch TV instead of helping or getting ready; and he manages to screw up the small chore she gives him. And he's unhappy because she won't let him buy a pool table.

Women will despise Gary right off, and men will find him hard to defend, even if  (or because) they see some of their own less admirable traits in him. Everyone should cheer when Brooke tells him it's over.

Ah, but she's not that smart– even though, Gary being Polish (yes, the script goes there!), she's got the brains in the relationship. Breaking up is her way of getting Gary's attention so he'll change; it's a strategic split. She still loves the guy in spite of his San Andreas-sized faults.

Now that they're no longer a couple, neither wants to give up the condo, even though their friend and realtor (Jason Bateman) tells them neither can afford it alone. So they continue to cohabit, sleeping apart, and a war of nerves (but not quite The War of the Roses) ensues as they both raise pettiness to an art form.

Knowing Brooke's goal is reunification, Marilyn suggests a two-pronged approach to make Gary jealous: waxing and dating. (A psychiatrist might be a better suggestion. Brooke's taste in men is as bad as Aniston's taste in movies, excepting Friends with Money.)

Now we're in standard sitcom territory, but if the audience were polled at this point, it's doubtful 20 percent would want to see Brooke and Gary get back together. The Break-Up wants to have it both ways, so things go back and forth for a while. Gary even manages a sort of apology: "I don't always do the right things or say the right things..." Always? How about ever? But is it too late, or does he have her at goodbye?

Even if they manage to pull a satisfying ending from the place satisfying endings are pulled from in Hollywood, can it make up for the unsatisfying beginning and middle?

In addition to their families (Ann-Margret appears ever so briefly as Brooke's mother), the love-haters have best friends to confide in. It may be symptomatic, in addition to cliched, that Gary's is a bartender (Jon Favreau) and Brooke's a wife and mother (Joey Lauren Adams).

Directed by Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Down with Love), The Break-Up uses t-shirts to convey messages: these people are Cubs fans; these women on the tour bus are celebrating someone's birthday. Favreau gets to wear the best assortment, from "I'm a drinker, not a fighter" (marking his profession) to "Pinche rio" (f**king river– a comment on the immigration issue?).

Is The Break-Up a date movie? Not for men or women, both of whom are made to appear asinine; but members of other genders may enjoy laughing at them. If Brooke and Gary were married, someone would protest that the movie defiles the sanctity of divorce. Perhaps it will be useful as a recruiting film for convents and monasteries.

Inquiring minds will want to know how Vaughn and Aniston, even if she was on the rebound, could have fallen in love while making such a scathing portrayal of a relationship.