April 26, 2013

Big Wedding, The

starhalf

A movie review by James Berardinelli



Big Wedding, The

COMEDY:

United States, 2013

U.S. Release Date:

2013-04-26

Running Length:

1:30

MPAA Classification:

R (Sexual Content, Profanity, Nudity)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

2.35:1

Cast:

Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace, Amanda Seyfried, Ben Barnes, Robin Williams, Patricia Rae, Ana Ayora

Director:

Justin Zackham

Screenplay:

Justin Zackham, based on Mon frere se marie by Jean-Stephane Bron and Karine Sudan

Cinematography:

Jonathan Brown

Music:

Nathan Barr

U.S. Distributor:

Lionsgate

Subtitles:

none


Despite being adapted from a generally well-liked French film, The Big Wedding feels like nothing more ambitious than a big screen sit-com. It's tired and dated with too few laughs to justify the stultifying attempts at drama and the impossible-to-swallow plot contortions. The justification for the central narrative conceit, a divorced couple pretending to still be married, is sufficiently absurd to make one question the intelligence of all those involved. Sympathetic characters are few and far between and, when one does show up, he/she is afforded minimal screen time.

The humor in The Big Wedding is sufficient to elevate it from the "completely unwatchable" category into the "disappointingly mediocre" one. That, I suppose, is damning with faint praise. There are some amusing one-liners and punch lines that result in half-hearted laughter, but those instances don't come frequently enough to camouflage the film's numerous, obvious deficiencies. The only way for a comedy to work when the screenplay makes no attempt to build emotional connections between audience and characters is for it to offer nonstop hilarity. That doesn't happen here. The Big Wedding's attempts at relationship building are embarrassing and the situation isn't helped by a roster of high-profile stars (Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried) going through the motions. The only ones who seem to be trying are Topher Grace and Ben Barnes. Robin Williams has what amounts to a very odd cameo (reminiscent of Rowan Atkinson's turn as a priest in Four Weddings and a Funeral) and Ana Ayora's skinny dipping scene serves as The Big Wedding's lone highlight.

Like most wedding movies, this is all about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that go on leading up to the big event. Don (De Niro) and Ellie (Keaton) have been divorced for a number of years. Don lives with Bebe (Sarandon) in the palatial (but not overly ostentatious) house he once shared with Ellie. The three haven't seen one another since the divorce but they seem chummy enough. Don and Ellie have come together for the wedding of their adopted son, Alejandro (Barnes), to his willowy girlfriend, Missy (Seyfried). Also on hand are the couple's other children, Jared (Grace) and Lyla (Heigl). Jared is a 29-year old virgin eager to lose that distinction and Lyla is smarting from the breakup of her marriage. Complications arise as a result of the arrival of Alejandro's biological mother from Columbia. Madonna (Patricia Rae) is a devout Catholic who views divorce as sinful. In order to put up a good front for his mother and sister (Ayora), Alejandro asks Don and Ellie to pretend to still be married. Much to the chagrin of Bebe, they agree. Hilarity ensues. Well, not really, but that's what the filmmakers would like viewers to believe.

There's not much to say about the movie because there's so little there in the way of substance. As wedding-related movies go, it's closer to the worst than the best. It's pretty obviously targeted at middle-aged women, which makes it ideal "counterprogramming" for the male-oriented Pain & Gain, which opens the same weekend. Perhaps the most impressive thing about The Big Wedding is how many A-list actors signed on to be in the production of a relatively unknown director - Justin Zackham's only previous credit is the forgettable (and forgotten) 2001 feature, Going Greek. Still, none of them does stand-out work - they come, say their lines, and get their paychecks. Everything about The Big Wedding is generic from the title to the plot to the payoff. Even clocking in at a skinny 90 minutes, it's a waste of time.

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