Throughout film history. many screen performers have brought wonder and awe to moviegoers everywhere. Vince Vaughn is one of these actors. A thespian of Shakespearean might who, in a career spanning almost twenty five years, has managed to give a few of the most memorable and inspired performances we’ve seen since the likes of Brando and golden age De Niro. Vaughn is a subtle and understated star who for far too long has toiled under the shadows of less talented names like Wilson and Stiller. Vaughn is a national treasure. I am certain his name will only grow in stature in the years to come. It was an almost insurmountable task to pick the best of Vaughn, for he is a performer whose repertoire is filled with only masterful work. Yet, I tried my best. Without any further ado, I present you the greatest Vince Vaughn performances.
This is undoubtedly the most overlooked gem in Vaughn’s entire career. It flopped at the box office and was universally panned by critics, for mostly good reason. The entire film was a terribly unfunny commercial for Google. Owen Wilson also delivers another classic phoned in performance as Owen Wilson. Every factor was working against Vaughn, allowing his acting muscles to be challenged like never before. While the movie was still a stinker, Vince pulled through, giving what will surely be remembered as one of the most playfully controlled performances of the past ten years. He plays an affable, yet troubled, man who despite his being a bit of a schlub, pulls through at the end. It is incredible stuff, showcasing Vaughn at his very best.
On release, this was advertised as an ensemble film. Many famous actors uniting to create laughter and joy with audiences everywhere. Many were surprised to see that Akiva Schaffer’s film was not so much an ensemble piece, as an intense character study of Bob, played by Vince Vaughn He is an affable, yet troubled, man who despite his being a bit of a schlub, pulls through at the end. Bob is a father. His relationship with his daughter is shaky and on edge. Like Lester Burnham in American Beauty, Bob is a suburban office drone who is ready at any chance to lash out at society and the world around him. With the background of an alien invasion, Bob gets to do just that. It is incredible stuff, showcasing Vaughn at his very best.
I do not cry often during movies, but Vaughn’s playfully controlled, yet gut wrenching performance, in Fred Claus was one case in which I could not help but let the waterworks flow. Here, Vaughn plays an affable, yet troubled, man who despite his being a bit of a schlub, pulls through at the end. He is the other brother of Santa Claus, and must help save Christmas. It is an undoubtedly absurd concept for a feature film. It works in execution, largely due to Vaughn’s committed and very method performance. It is rumored that in training for the role, Vince Vaughn consisted of a diet of cookies, milk, and good old fashioned American determination. It shows. The talent on display in Fred Claus is something to marvel at. It is a vast cinematic achievement, on par with 2001: A Space Odyssey or Taxi Driver, that lives and dies by Vaughn’s performance. Under another actor the material could have faltered, but with Vince at the helm, it soars. It is incredible stuff, showcasing Vaughn at his very best.
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Many cite this as the crown jewel in Vince Vaughn’s seemingly endless collection of flawless performances. It is hard to argue with that. Taking a complete 180 in role choice here, Vaughn plays an affable, yet troubled, man who despite his being a bit of a schlub, pulls through at the end. His epic and enduring transformation into the character of Peter La Fleur should not come as a surprise. Vaughn has always been willing to go above and beyond for his films, but not quite to the extent he did for Dodgeball. I have already mentioned the lengths Vaughn went through for his role in Fred Claus. All of that looks like child’s play when compared with his work on Dodgeball. On top of losing two hundred pounds, Vaughn lived in a sweaty dodgeball gym alone for six months while preparing the role. He woke up at four thirty am every day and did pushups while reciting the script in its entirety. Often, an actor’s method for getting a great performance can overshadow the performance itself. Luckily, that was not the case for Dodgeball. Winning accolades of all kinds, Vaughn was finally given the universal recognition he deserved here. In the film, he played an underdog who ends up winning big. Such could be looked at as a metaphor for Vaughn’s own life. A fantastic actor who had gone under the radar for years, before finally coming through and winning it all. Vaughn is great, and the film is better for it. It is incredible stuff, showcasing Vaughn at his very best.
Taking a change of pace in a much more lighthearted role, Vaughn played an affable, yet troubled, man who despite his being a bit of a schlub, pulls through at the end in Gus Van Sant’s arguably superior remake to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 screwball comedy. Vaughn could have let down his guard and hammed it up for the role as the lovable goofball, Norman Bates. But this is Vince “The Master” Vaughn we are talking about here and he does no such things. Vaughn gave not only a playfully controlled performance that brings smiles to my face every time I witness it, but a true and real gravitas that lay underneath the surface of his character. Psycho is the defining role in Vaughn’s career. His performances are always layered, and Psycho is the most complex of all his roles. His character comes off as wonderfully ditzy, but still has a certain dramatic power and inner pain that is bubbling inside him. Not even the classic greats like Laurence Olivier or William Holden ever quite reached the level of emotional depth and screen presence Vaughn maintains throughout his entire performance as wacky lion trainer, Norman Bates. Never has such light fluff material been brought to such artistic heights. Some say Dodgeball was Vaughn’s greatest performance, some say Wedding Crashers. I say nothing has met the assured screen power and wonder of Vaughn in Psycho. It is incredible stuff, showcasing Vaughn at his very best. I can only hope he has more like this in store for future projects.