The Vince Vaughn brand maybe isn’t “in trouble” per se, but it’s not doing that great either. How so? Well, “The Internship” opens this weekend and it’s a big, broad comedy co-starring Vaughn and another relatively big comedy star Owen Wilson. Keep in mind, “Wedding Crashers” from 2004 that starred Vaughn and Wilson is the 4th highest R-rated comedy of all time domestically ($209 million) behind two ‘Hangover’ movies and “Ted," and it’s the 10th highest grossing R-rated movie domestically ever. That’s not anything to sneeze at.
So what’s the problem? Well, the way “The Internship” is tracking, it’s already falling behind this anonymous-looking horror film starring Ethan Hawke called “The Purge” which seems likely to top the box-office this weekend despite having zero buzz this summer, whereas 20th Century Fox has been marketing the crap out of this Google-centric comedy. There are deciding factors at play. It’s been eight years since “Wedding Crashers” so maybe some of the appeal has worn off and “The Internship” is being savaged by critics and currently has a 33% RT score. (We didn’t love it much either, but it’s actually better than some are making it out to be.)
The other problem is Vaughn’s appeal seems to be waning and this is probably because Vince Vaughn is always playing the Vince Vaughn caricature -- the overly-enthusiastic, hyper-caffeinated man child who refuses to grow up and always has something inappropriate to say. Granted, we’d be lying if we said we haven’t loved that character at times, from “Swingers” to “Old School,” to “Dodgeball” to the underrated, relatively grown-up and mature Vaughn-vehicle “The Break-Up.” But that shtick is getting old and audiences seem to agree.
If you look at Vaughn vehicles like "Four Christmases” ($120 million domestically) and “Fred Claus” ($72 million domestically) and grade them next to "The Dilemma" ($48 million) and "The Watch" ($35 million), you definitely start to see a downward trend. Even “The Break-Up,” which wasn’t well-reviewed or liked and ended up far too serious for most audiences, grossed $118 million stateside. Sure, those later films are ensemble pieces where Vaughn isn’t the only star, but with “The Internship” already looking to underperform (despite the fact that Fox tried to build buzz with sneak previews last weekend), it definitely appears that audiences are tiring of this formula (and we called his latest “Google Crashers” in our review because one could argue it takes the same characters of “Wedding Crashers” and just ages them up eight years ahead, only in a safe PG-13 format).
Vaughn's taken some small, very small serious turns in the last few years. He had a cameo as a favor to Sean Penn in “Into The Wild” (2008), a small serious teacher role in Mike Mills’ “Thumbsucker” (2005), and even did a labor of love documentary that no one cared about or saw, “Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights - From Hollywood to the Heartland” (2008), but for the most part he’s played it really, really safe.
At one point, Vaughn seemed as if he was flirting with some change. In 2012, his name got linked to the thriller "The Risk Agent," the Randall Wallace-penned "Gunslingers" and the action flick "Triple Time." But none of them ever materialized and since he’s set up two pretty generic sounding comedies -- one an untitled family comedy at Universal written by the guys who penned “The Sitter,” and "Business Trip," a “Planes, Trains & Automobiles"-style comedy about a businessman written by Steve Conrad ("The Weather Man," "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty").
It's interesting because Vaughn may feel burned. After his early success with "Swingers," which landed him a role in good paycheck role in "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," he attempted a string of serious films -- "The Locusts," "Return To Paradise," "Clay Pigeons,” “A Cool, Dry Place” and the Gus Van Sant "Psycho” remake -- and all of which were flops. It wasn’t until the early aughts starting with “Old School,” followed by “Starsky and Hutch” and then “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” that audiences (and critics) started to embrace him once more. It’s easy to understand that need for validation.
But Vaughn really needs a shake up and what we think would be fantastic for him is a team-up with David O. Russell. But this isn’t just random, wishful thinking fan fiction. They’ve almost worked together twice. Russell told us in an interview last year that Vince Vaughn and Zooey Deschanel were in his original iterations of his hit dramedy “Silver Linings Playbook” that eventually went on to star Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. “You know because I really liked both of them, but it didn't come together at that time. Vince was a fan of the script at the time,” he told us.
David O. Russell tried again with “Old St. Louis,” a dramedy about a traveling salesman and absentee father whose life changes when his daughter becomes part of his life. It was supposed to star Vaughn, Scarlett Johansson as a love interest and Chloe Moretz as the daughter. Hello, laughs and heartbreak and David O. Russell, who knows his way around funny dramas and humanistic, sad comedies with a Capra-esque edge? The Oscars are just waiting for this one, guys.
Sadly, it never came to pass, but Russell still wants to make it. “My Dad was a salesman and his Dad was a salesman and it was really based on his Dad's experiences as a salesman and it's a great story. We're still talking about it,” the director told us. "I wanted to make that happen, but [Vaughn’s] own schedule us kept not being able to do it and so then that’s what happened with that. You know there's always a specific reason for every story.”
Additionally, the pair almost worked together on “2 Guns,” Universal’s adaptation of a Boom! Studios comic book (that comes to theaters this summer starring Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington). And suffice to say the director has Vaughn in mind often. “Oh yes, I'm thinking about [him and I working together] all the time. I have a couple of times and obviously we almost have [worked together],” he said. A collaboration certainly sounds inevitable. So why hasn’t it happened yet? Possibly because Vaughn and his coterie of in-house writers at his Wild West Picture Show Productions company are just developing the same old broad, safe comedies that audiences are starting to tire of.
Honestly, we think “Old St. Louis” could be a game-changer for Vaughn, the kind of serious, but funny role that wouldn’t take him completely out of his comfort zone, and would give him enough leeway to do his own thing as well (both the director and actor love improv). As a very astute Twitter follower says, " 'Old St. Louis' could possibly do for Vaughn what 'Punch Drunk Love' did for Adam Sandler." Spot on. It feels like a match made in heaven. Russell’s about to release his third film in a row that’s going to be an Oscar contender (the untitled Abscam project). What are you waiting for, Vince?