Total Recall: Vince Vaughn's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Watch star.
Vegas, martinis, and the words "baby" and "money" helped launch Vince Vaughn's film career -- and helped established him as an extraordinarily compelling cinematic scoundrel, a role he's played repeatedly over the last decade and change. But that isn't all Vaughn can do, as he's proven while assembling an admirably eclectic filmography, moving from comedy to horror to action thrillers and back again, and sharing screens with everyone from Richard Attenborough to Jennifer Lopez in the process. This weekend, however, Vaughn's back in his comedically caddish wheelhouse with The Watch, and to celebrate, we decided to revisit his best-reviewed films, Total Recall style!
As always, we let the Tomatometer do the sorting for us, and although it did the easy work, tossing out the obvious rotten flicks (bye bye, Couples Retreat), we still had to make a few judgment calls on roles that, though memorable, still amounted to cameos (adieu, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Into the Wild, and Anchorman). What we were finally left with was a list that we think captures the breadth of Vaughn's filmography while limiting it to the movies that gave him a healthy amount of screentime. And with that, let's dispense with the formalities and get down to the films, shall we? Ladies and gents, the best of Vince Vaughn!
Vaughn's first major role came in Swingers, a film with a budget of $250,000. His next movie was a bit of a step up: 1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park boasted a $73 million bankroll, not to mention Steven Spielberg in the director's chair and a cast including such famous names as Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, and Lord Richard Attenborough. Of course, Lost World wasn't greeted with quite the same critical reception enjoyed by Swingers, but on the other hand, it did make over $600 million at the box office -- and it featured dozens of awesome-looking CGI dinosaurs, which makes up for any critical brickbats, or the fact that Vaughn's character is a knuckleheaded environmentalist who's more concerned about saving giant carnivores than his own traveling companions. Looking Closers' Jeffrey Overstreet summed it all up succinctly when he wrote, "If you liked Jurassic Park, you'll probably like this one a little less. What the first film did poorly, this film does worse."
Based on Michael Grant Jaffe's novel Dance Real Slow, 1998's A Cool, Dry Place broke Vaughn's string of rapscallions and ne'er-do-wells and gave him the first thoroughly sympathetic role of his career: Russell Durrell, a young lawyer struggling through single fatherhood after his wife (Monica Potter) abandons him and their five-year-old son (Bobby Moat). Despite a cast that also included Joey Lauren Adams, Place barely squeaked its way into theaters, grossing a few thousand dollars during a one-week run -- and though many critics rolled their eyes at the film's leisurely pace and heavy melodrama (Filmcritic's Christopher Null accused the plot of "just [sitting] there like a stuffed monkey"), they were matched by scribes such as Sandra Contreras of TV Guide, who wrote, "Its heart is in the right place, but this sweet drama just doesn't build enough true drama from its slender premise. That said, it's not bad enough to merit the kind of stealth release its studio has imposed on it."
8. Old School
After 2000's The Cell, Vaughn was relatively quiet for a few years; although he appeared in a pair of major releases (Domestic Disturbance and Made, both released in 2001), he spent much of his time in films whose appeal was more, uh, selective (The Prime Gig, I Love Your Work). It took another testosterone-heavy ensemble comedy to remind audiences what made the Swingers star famous -- and okay, so Old School ended up being stolen by Will Ferrell, but Vaughn got his share of laughs, too, and it foreshadowed his funny roles in Anchorman and Starsky & Hutch. A not inconsiderable number of critics dismissed Old School's raunchy lowbrow humor, but the majority agreed with Cinerina's Karina Montgomery, who gasped, "I can't believe it, but I want to see it again."
7. Clay Pigeons
After making a splash with Swingers, Vaughn hit the ground running, booking roles in several years' worth of big-budget productions, including 1997's Jurassic Park sequel, The Lost World, and the costly Jennifer Lopez flop The Cell. Between the tentpoles, however, Vaughn hadn't lost his taste for the odd lower-profile project -- like Clay Pigeons, a Ridley Scott-produced black comedy about a drifter (Vaughn) who uses his imagined friendship with a casual acquaintance (Joaquin Phoenix) as the impetus for a homicidal, Throw Momma from the Train-style "favor." Playing a charming, murderous lunatic helped prep Vaughn for the starring role in Gus Van Sant's Psycho remake -- and while Pigeons didn't make much of an impression at the box office, it earned the admiration of critics like the Palo Alto Weekly's Jeanne Aufmuth, who wrote, "This is not your classic whodunit. It's blacker, funnier, and edgier."
The overlap on the Venn diagram between Dodgeball and Wedding Crashers, 2004's Starsky & Hutch stars Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson as the titular detectives -- and Vaughn as Reese Feldman, the bar mitzvah-throwing drug kingpin who's responsible for pushing a new, untraceable form of cocaine. While a number of critics were turned off by the way the movie enthusiastically embraced its cheesy television roots, for most, it was too goofily good-natured to resist -- right down to Snoop Dogg's appearance as the streetwise police informant known as Huggy Bear. It is, wrote Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post, "A really good not-great movie, the kind that would be classified as a guilty pleasure were it not executed with guilt-free honesty and good nature."