Wedding Planner, The (United States, 2001)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Five minutes into The Wedding Planner, I suspected the film was in trouble. Ten minutes later, I knew it was in trouble. There's only one thing that can sink a movie so fast - bad writing. Even excruciating acting takes longer. Romantic comedies shouldn't be difficult to make, since all but the very best of them follow a tried-and-true formula. All that is required is to get a pair of likable, attractive leads and plop them down in the midst of a narrative that allows them to generate some romantic friction before being split apart by complications then brought back together at the end. Yet, despite having a clear roadmap to use for navigation, director Adam Shankman and his co-conspirators, screenwriters Pamela Falk & Michael Ellis, manage to screw things up. The end result is occasionally so inept and embarrassing that it's almost physically painful to sit through.

On the surface, the selection of actress/singer Jennifer Lopez and one-time heartthrob Matthew McConaughey seems to be good casting. In the past, both have had some success with romantic pairings (Lopez opposite George Clooney in the steamy thriller Out of Sight and McConaughey opposite Jenna Elfman in EdTV), so it's reasonable to expect them to strike a few sparks. Unfortunately, although Lopez is competent, McConaughey looks lost. A city slicker with two sticks would have a better chance of generating heat than these two. The chemistry so crucial to the success of any screen romance is absent. But the central flaw isn't the actors, or even the film's generic premise - it's the script. The Wedding Planner is a perfect example of what happens when the appeal of the two leads cannot overcome the obstacle presented by an irredeemably stupid screenplay.

Mary Fiore (Lopez) is one of the best wedding planners in the state of California. Whenever anyone needs to arrange a lavish wedding, they come to her. Despite her profession, however, she leads an unromantic life, using the motto, "those who can't wed, plan". Things change for her one afternoon when she is saved from being stuck by a runaway garbage dumpster by a handsome doctor named Steve Edison (McConaughey). The two spend a romantic evening together and Mary thinks she may have found Mr. Right - until Steve turns out to be the fiancé of her latest client, Fran Donolly (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras). But, as the planning of the wedding becomes more involved, Mary and Steve's attraction represents a growing impediment.

When I watch a romantic comedy, I do not demand a great deal in the way of originality or inventiveness. This is, after all, a highly derivative genre in which the unexpected is often frowned upon. Romantic tension, not narrative tension, should be the director's goal. However, I do require that the primary characteristics of the characters not be evidence of frontal lobotomies. Throughout The Wedding Planner, people consistently do and say stupid things. It's an epidemic, and no one is spared the ruthless butchering of the screenwriters' witless pens. So Jennifer Lopez gets to crawl around on her knees to avoid an old flame and Matthew McConaughey if offered the opportunity to see what it's like to have a statue's stone genitals crazy glued to his hand. Can comedy get any funnier than that? Meanwhile, the dialogue features more platitudes than can be found in a rack of Hallmark greeting cards. When characters are this dumb, it's impossible to care about their fates; consequently, we have no investment in Mary and Steve's eventual and inevitable union.

Typically, no matter how uninspired a romantic comedy may be, it has the capacity to generate a moment's bliss when the two lovers finally set aside their differences and come together. Not here, though. The Wedding Planner can't even offer such a basic payoff, and that makes the chore of watching it completely thankless. Even the superficial pleasure of gazing at Lopez and McConaughey can't justify this film's existence.

Wedding Planner, The (United States, 2001)

Director: Adam Shankman
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey, Justin Chambers, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Judy Greer
Screenplay: Pamela Falk & Michael Ellis
Cinematography: Julio Macat
Music: Mervyn Warren
U.S. Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Run Time: 1:47
U.S. Release Date: 2001-01-26
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2:35:1