Wedding Crashers (United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Please note: Obvious references to Animal House, Porky's, American Pie, and Old School will not be used in this review. Whether appropriate or not, those titles will not appear.

During the first ten minutes of Wedding Crashers, we are treated to a display of the debauched antics that were staples in comedies of the late 1970s and 1980s. Alas, it's only a tease. Pretty soon, this movie settles into the comfortable groove of telling its story - a by-the-numbers romantic comedy that's far too plot-heavy for its own good. The jokes become farther between and less funny as the filmmakers mistakenly believe that we in the audience actually care about the characters and their romantic entanglements. No cliché goes unmissed as the movie stumbles along its pre-determined trajectory. I'm not going to explicitly reveal the ending, but if you have seen more than one romantic comedy in your day, you'll know what's coming.

One of my rules of motion pictures is that only a rare comedy can hold an audience for more than 90 minutes. There's a reason why most humor-based motion pictures are short: it's easy for this kind of film to wear out its welcome. Wedding Crashers is nearly two hours long, and it would have been a more jaunty, jovial affair had the second half of the movie been reduced by 50%. All of the so-called "character building" falls flat, and the morose, guilt-laden feelings associated with the "romantic complications" drag on forever. Plus, there's a disturbing scene of graphic violence that has no place being in a movie designed to make us laugh.

John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy Klein (Vince Vaughn) are professional wedding crashers. They appear uninvited at weddings, insinuate themselves into the crowd by pretending to be obscure relatives of the bride or groom, and partake of the open bar and hopefully open legs of the bridesmaids. When the eldest daughter of Treasury Secretary William Cleary (Christopher Walken) is getting married, John and Jeremy decide to pull off the mother of all wedding crashes. And it works perfectly, except for two complications. John unexpectedly falls for one of the bride's sisters, Claire (Rachel McAdams), while Jeremy becomes the object of another sister's (Isla Fisher) stalking. The Secretary likes them so much that he invites them back to a private party at his house, and they end up there for the weekend. This gives John a chance to spend some time with Claire and size up the competition: her burly fiancé, Sack (Bradley Cooper). Meanwhile, Jeremy spends much of his time trying to avoid the lovestruck Gloria and her gay brother.

As the film's romantic lead, Owen Wilson plays it straight. That leaves Vince Vaughn with all the funny scenes, and he pulls most of them off. When Vaughn's on screen, at least during the first 60 minutes, there's a chance Wedding Crashers will deliver a laugh. Wilson is just boring. Worse, there's no chemistry between him and his perky co-star, Rachel McAdams. McAdams (The Notebook, Mean Girls) is delightful, but she and Wilson never click, making the romance that is central to Wedding Crashers' success dead-on-arrival.

I have previously stated that predictability isn't necessarily a bad thing in a romantic comedy, but the film has to offer something to keep viewers interested. Once Wedding Crashers' humor has dried up around the half-way point, there's nothing left. All of the good stuff - the raw jokes, the bare breasts, and the profanity-laden asides - comes early in the proceedings. The only thing left for the final act is an unfunny cameo by someone who we have come to expect more from. Then Wedding Crashers climaxes with a scene that's embarrassing for all involved.

If a film is going to be in bad taste, at least it should have the decency to follow through on its convictions, rather than morph into something else. Director David Dobkin (who worked with Wilson in Shanghai Knights and with Vaughn in Clay Pigeons) has crafted something flabby and mushy. It offers plenty of belly laughs early on, but the appeal is short-lived. It would be untrue for me to claim I didn't laugh during Wedding Crashers, but the longer the movie stayed on screen - outlasting its welcome by a considerable amount - the less amusing it was. After a promising beginning, this movie crashes and burns.

Wedding Crashers (United States, 2005)

Director: David Dobkin
Cast: Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, Isla Fisher, Christopher Walken, Jane Seymour, Bradley Cooper
Screenplay: Steve Faber & Bob Fisher
Cinematography: Julio Macat
Music: Rolfe Kent
U.S. Distributor: New Line Cinema
Run Time: 1:56
U.S. Release Date: 2005-07-15
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Situations, Nudity, Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1