Vince Vaughn: The Rise and Fall of a Comedy Genius
What has happened to Vince Vaughn? Since seeing The Dilemma, it has occurred to us here at Best For Film that the man has become a parody of himself. The quick talking charm has been replaced by quick talking crassness, the laughs have been replaced by groans and the five star films have been replaced by box office flops. In a bid to discover what went so wrong, we chart the rise and fall of everyone’s favourite gym owner.
The promising beginning: Swingers
Swingers in 1996 marked Vaughn down as a man on the move. The Jon Favreau buddy comedy played to Vaughn’s strengths- namely, his easy charm and his quick mouth. He has charisma, he had the lines (‘All right, I’ll ask! Ma’am, where do the high school girls hang out in this town?’) and he got the girls. This was Vaughn’s arrival on the main stage, the role that made directors sit up and take notice and a chance for him to display his comedy chops.
The comedy years: Old School / Starsky and Hutch
After a tiny part in Zoolander, Vaughn really came to the fore as dead beat Beanie in Old School. A trio of bored thirty somethings, Vaughn and co-stars Luke Wilson and Will Ferrell excelled at creating funny but believable characters. Beanie was an obnoxious immature buffoon but Vaughn had the right mix of humour and realism to make you fall in love with him anyway. Then he decided to carve out a niche as a villainous baddie in Starsky and Hutch, complete with a fantastically OTT moustache. The Jewish drug dealer stole the show from the very hammy Ben Stiller and hapless Owen Wilson, and in doing so stood up to be counted amongst the Hollwood Frat Pack (a term coined in the early noughties to describe Vaughn, Stiller, Wilson et al). Vaughn was ready for some bigger parts.
The comedy gold years: Dodgeball / Wedding Crashers
And they arrived in due course. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story was a huge lump of comedy genius, with Vaughn for once the restrained character opposed to the more flamboyant Ben Stiller. But who didn’t love the run of the mill gym owner and his oddball friends, not to mention his smooth charm and the fact he still tried to get the girl after learning of her almightily scary unicorn fetish?? Whatever your reason for loving this movie, it would have been nothing without Vaughn’s wit and charm to offset the sneer factor of Stiller.
Hot on the heels of Dodgeball came Wedding Crashers. This film might have been Owen Wilson’s vehicle to prove he was (reasonably) straight-laced leading man material, but once again it was Vaughn who made the movie what it was- hilarious and heart-warming. Firstly Vaughn was an all out macho lad, partying harder than everyone else- something we could identify with. Then we started to admire his loyalty in staying with his mate even when the sensible option was to run in the opposite direction. Lastly to top it all his character not only puts up with Isla Fisher’s crazy bitch, but falls in love with her! Sweet and touching much? In the end, you don’t really care whether Wilson gets the girl- the fact Vaughn has matured through the movie into a *gasp* gentleman is what really makes this one to watch.
But proving he wasn’t too high and mighty for the odd cameo- his turn in Anchorman was short but brilliant, so much so that there were rumours of a spin-off for his character which never really died down. Vaughn was here to stay.
The serious years: The Break Up / Into The Wild
Vaughn and Aniston in a rom-com? Please, pass the sick bucket. But wait- this was a rom-com with a difference, the charisma and chemistry being used against each other rather than for. This was a film at odds with itself and as such, became a huge hit for both stars. Vaughn acted well within himself- yes it had laughs, but these were understated as opposed to huge set piece gags. Instead, the humour was channelled into highlighting how he got the girl, and ultimately- how he lost her.
Vaughn followed up this change of direction with a literal change of direction- a cameo in Into the Wild, a coming of age movie starring Emile Hirsch. Directed by Sean Penn, this was huge step away from the frat house comedies of his past, but nonetheless Vaughn dived in, and despite a stellar cast, held his own. This should have marked a new creative period for Vaughn, but instead…
The sell-out years: Couples Retreat / The Dilemma
Vaughn decided that he was a proven comedy genius. He could act. He could even bag Jennifer Aniston. Therefore- the only way forward was shitty awful films. What was he thinking? Did he believe his own hype to the extent that he thought even with a bad script he could make the film work? Was it just for the money? Or does he just not know a crap screenplay when he reads one?
The less said about Couples Retreat the better- a romantic comedy with no romance and zero comedy. The Dilemma is worse in many ways as Vaughn is so obviously the lead and yet every time he is on screen you want to cover your ears to block out the endless drone of clichés that fall out of his mouth in his pathetic attempts to make you emphasise with his character. The film is terrible- but Vaughn compounds this by undoing so many years of good work in the comedy field with dull toilet jokes and boring pranks. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
So there you have it, the glorious rise and terrible fall of Vince Vaughn. But wait- it might not be too late! You can still save yourself! We suggest a swift collaboration with one of your Frat Pack buddies, finding a script that is genuinely funny and not being afraid to branch out and do something new. Just please- stay far far away from rom-coms before you turn into Hank Azaria’s less funny brother.