The Break-Up

The Break-Up (2006)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, Joey Lauren Adams, Ann-Margret, Judy Davis, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jon Favreau
Extras: U-Control, Audio Commentaries, Alternate Ending, Deleted Footage, Featurettes

It's not too often we see an A-list Hollywood film attempting to expand on the simple romantic comedy formula by altering the norm, even ever-so-slightly. Now, I'm not talking about anything mind blowing here, It's just that we are usually subjected to sugar coated, clean and tidy "happy" endings. Thankfully "The Break-Up" does not slip into that safe, but rather boring mold. Without blatantly giving away the ending, some might be a little disappointed that "The Break-Up" isn't a cutesy waste of time and actually lives up to and earns it's title.

After a whirlwind two year romance, art dealer Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) and her wise-cracking Chicago area tour guide boyfriend Gary (Vince Vaughn) start to feel the tensions of a relationship that is headed anywhere but down the aisle. Thankfully the full extent of the "happy" times are portrayed though a series of a snapshots presented in a montage during the opening credits. This is where "The Break-Up" separates itself from your typical date movie. Almost immediately focusing on Brooke and Gary's troubled relationship, "The Break-Up" carefully mixes dark humor and genuine heartfelt moments with great success. Featuring a great cast that season the story with colorful performances from Jon Favreau, Joey Lauren Adams and Vincent D'Onofrio and veteran actors Ann-Margret and Judy Davis, "The Break-Up" has a little something for everyone.

Displaying a full 1080p High-Definition widescreen image, with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, Universal Studios Home Entertainment has done a great job with their presentation of "The Break-Up". Offering beautiful color reproduction and sharp contrast, I was marveling at details as simple as the lush green blades of grass that fill Chicago's Wrigley Field during a portion of the opening of the film. This disc is by no means in the top tier of reference quality presentations, but it sits pretty comfortable as a decent close second. Flesh tones remain natural and accurate throughout the film and a splendid rich, almost inky black level adds to the overall fine details present. The overall exhibition is clean and clear of any dust or dirt elements, with no real bothersome grain or signs of bad compression. The only thing that is worth a mention is the occasional softness in the picture quality that is minimal at best.

"The Break-Up" is released as an "HD DVD / DVD Combo" format (which simply means that there is a fully functioning HD DVD on one side, then flip the disc over and you get the standard DVD portion as well). The idea is simply to lessen the fear that some may have about purchasing movies in the HD DVD format in the midst of an uncertain future for home theater's new High-Definition formats. I have to applaud Universal's decision to adopt this style of releasing HD DVD content for some of their films, but here's to hoping that this uncertainty will soon be behind us and we can have just straight HD DVD releases.

Also available on this release is Universal Studios Home Entertainment's exclusive "U-Control" option that takes advantage of HD DVDs iHD authoring environment to offer viewers highly advanced interactivity in addition to the feature presentation. "U-Control" attempts to heighten or enhance your High-Definition home theater viewing experience by including additional video, audio and/or text. The feature allows the viewer to "activate" the option for additional information about the film before or during viewing. In this case, "The Break-Up" comes with additional picture in picture and production photographs that can be accessed through "U-Control". One thing to note, you have to ensure that your player is up to date with the latest firmware in order to be able to view this HD DVD. You may experience slight glitches in audio and video sync as well, much like I did, but this is something that can be attributed to "U-Control" being just slightly ahead of it's time and should be virtually non-existent on future models of players. I only encountered this problem on one occasion while viewing "The Break-Up" on HD DVD.

The sound portion comes beautifully presented in a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 sound track that easily handles the naturally reproduced vocals, keeping them front and center, while providing ample amounts of enveloping sound to satisfy your home theater experience of "The Break-Up". I am still in awe of the new sound mix(s) available on the latest High-Definition format(s) that tend to offer a more natural sound reproduction and overall tighter crossover between all speaker channels, enriching the home theater experience, even on a somewhat basic romantic comedy sound track.

For added value content, there is a nice compliment to be found under the special features portion of this HD DVD. Starting with a feature length audio commentary with actors Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston and a separate audio commentary with director Peyton Reed.

For deleted footage, there is an alternate ending to the film, deleted and extended scenes and an outtake section that is more like a deleted scene section rather than the usual "goofs" or "flubs" feature. Most of this footage makes a nice addition, but you quickly see why it ended up on the cutting room floor.

You will also find "Improv with Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau" where the two actors attempt alternate dialogue for a key scene. Completing the special features section is "In Perfect Harmony: The Tone Rangers", which is good for a laugh, a "Making of The Break-Up" featurette as well as a unique "Three Brothers: A Tour of Chicago" featurette.

Seeing "The Break-Up" during it's theatrical run and now experiencing the HD DVD in a home theater environment, I can easily recommend this High-Definition version of the film for it's close rendering to the original presentation. This HD DVD has a slightly higher suggested retail pricing that is most likely due to it's "Combo" format, but still manages to offer a good value, in terms of a great presentation that comes packed with some truly original special features.
I found the unconventional approach of this film quite refreshing and genuine as it offers up the right balance of wildly comedic and touching moments to challenge the everyday romantic comedy.