The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"THE BIG WEDDING"

The Big Wedding

What is it about wedding movies that makes them so terrible? The genre seems to give filmmakers a license to indulge in predictable, overused jokes and half-assed plot contrivances. No, they're not all bad, but for every My Best Friend's Wedding, there are at least three just like The Big Wedding. This film doesn't even try to do anything new. It simply takes all the things you've seen in other wedding movies and recycles them, all while pretending you're dumb enough not to notice.

Robert DeNiro and Diane Keaton play Don and Ellie, a long-divorced couple. Their marriage ended when Don ran off with Ellie's best friend, Bebe (Susan Sarandon). The two are reunited for the wedding of their adopted son, Alejandro (Ben Barnes), and his fiancee, Missy (Amanda Seyfried). What would big screen matrimony be without a lot of familial dysfunctions coming to the surface, right? Well, The Big Wedding has plenty. It just so happens that Alejandro's uber-conservative birthmother, Madonna (Patricia Rae), is coming to the wedding, and she doesn't know that Don and Ellie are divorced. Thinking she would not approve, Alejandro convinces them to pretend they're still together until after the nuptials. They agree to this ridiculous plan, much to the dismay of Bebe, who is suddenly pushed out of the picture. Everyone gathers for the wedding, along with Don and Ellie's other two children. Lyla (Katherine Heigl) is infertile and experiencing marital difficulties. Jared (Topher Grace) is a virgin who desperately wants to lose his purity to Alejandro's hot biological sister (Ana Ayora). And then there's Missy's parents (David Rasche and Christine Ebersole), your stereotypical cinematic WASPs, which, of course, means they are superficial and deeply racist. (It's a running joke that they fear “beige grandchildren.”) Robin Williams also stars as a wacky priest, i.e. the exact same character he played in another lousy wedding comedy, License to Wed.

As you can tell, The Big Wedding is the sort of movie where instead of doing the common sense thing - simply telling Madonna the truth - the characters engage in an increasingly elaborate lie. As such, the film has all the depth of a “Three's Company” episode. Lots of wacky misunderstandings, lots of people double-talking as they attempt to explain away something they were caught doing. Every bit of it is strained. Not even this stellar cast can make writer/director Justin Zackham's nonsense work. In just now looking at Zackham's IMDb page, I see that he previously wrote The Bucket List, another movie that trafficked in overused cliches and avoided any sort of emotional complexity like the plague. Perhaps someone needs to school him in the art of plotting. Without even seeing the film, I'm guessing you could predict not only some of the complications these characters face, but also how certain things resolve themselves. Take a moment to imagine what might happen to Don and Ellie, to Don and Bebe, to Lyla, to Jared. Guess what? You're right.

In what appears to be an attempt to “hip up” the story, The Big Wedding features nearly non-stop sexual humor, as though the mere mention of sex somehow makes the film edgy. Raunchy comedy can be funny – just ask Judd Apatow – but this movie doesn't craft any jokes from its subject matter; it simply uses R-rated topics as punctuation. Imagine if I ended every single sentence in this review with some obligatory reference to Viagra, orgasms, or oral sex. How long would you be inclined to keep reading? Not long, I bet. That is precisely how The Big Wedding plays. Its motto seems to be, When it doubt, mention fornicating!

The Big Wedding is a remake of a French picture entitled Mon Frere se Marie. I haven't seen that film, but I'm sure it's better than this one. It certainly couldn't be any worse. So many talented actors are utterly wasted and forced to engage in bad sitcom-level antics. At one point, Diane Keaton utters the line, “This is humiliating.” I wasn't sure if she was talking about the situation her character was in, or being stuck in this witless, pathetically unfunny movie.

( out of four)


The Big Wedding is rated R for language, sexual content and brief nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.


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