Vince Vaughn grows up, at least a little, in the new comedy Couples Retreat.
The erstwhile “Wedding Crasher” plays a married father who wants nothing more than to stay together with his wife (Malin Akerman) in a film directed by former child actor Peter Billingsley ( A Christmas Story ).
Sure, Vaughn still talks a mile a minute and powers some of the film’s best moments, but his heartfelt character is a far cry from the guy in Swingers who was so money he didn’t even know it.
But Vaughn isn’t the first actor to attempt to grow up in front of his audience’s eyes. Even a man-child actor like Adam Sandler put aside his Billy Madison shtick to play a deeply flawed comic this past summer in Funny People.
Growing up on screen isn’t always easy. Sometimes, audiences aren’t comfortable watching a beloved star mature before their eyes. And some directors experience growing pains when they try to show a new side of their talents.
Consider writer/director Kevin Smith, whose beloved fan base balked when he tried to cozy up to his paternal nature with Jersey Girl. The public swatted down the movie, and only two years later Smith created Clerks II, a film squarely back in his wheelhouse.
Fandango.com spokesman Harry Medved points to Bill Murray as a comic actor who navigated away from slapstick humor to more sophisticated roles after 40. Murray retained the respect of his peers—and audiences—with poignant serio-comic turns in films like Lost in Translation.
Dennis Toth, movie expert and film financing consultant with New York-based R&R Consulting, says British actor Kenneth Moore summed up the transition during a PBS interview in the late 1960s.
Moore began his career doing featherweight comedies, but he and his frequent on screen partner Dirk Bogarde realized they had reached an age when they would either have to retire or start “acting,” Toth recalls.
“Fortunately, they were both able to act,” he says.
Smith’s best work “is deeply rooted in a college-drop-out-run-amuck sensibility and he may or may not be able to move toward a mature period,” he says.
Vaughn likely won’t have that problem.
“He can be a master of down playing a part which actually takes a lot of skill, but he is a better actor than some people might realize,” he says.
Other actors are aging gracefully, from an aesthetic point of view and can put off this issue for the moment.
"Hugh Grant appears determined to play male ingenue part for the rest of his natural life,” he says.
Others, like Sylvester Stallone, seem to defy the aging process rigorously while sticking to the same kind of material they tackled decades ago.
Like much in Hollywood, it all boils down to talent, even though some youthful performers can get away with a lack of it … for a while.
“With age, the performer loses the youthfulness and easy grace that allowed them to pretty much slide through a lot of pretty so-so material,” he says.