There’s a group of guys who always pop up in movies together. They’re either full-fledged co-stars, or else they appear in cameos. I’m talking about Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, and Steve Carell. You won’t see one without seeing at least one of the others. The pictures they make together range from Old School to Anchorman to Starsky & Hutch to Meet the Parents…I could go on and on. It’s gotten to the point where the audience would be disappointed if the gang didn’t somehow get together on screen. The latest effort from this pack is Wedding Crashers, which stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, and features a cameo from another player in the repertoire.
Wilson plays John Beckwith and Vaughn portrays Jeremy Klein. They are professional mediators who live for wedding season. This is when they crash as many weddings as they can, on the assumption that it’s uncommonly easy to pick up women. From the looks of things, this plan has been very successful. The duo has a long list of rules and an even longer list of assumed identities. They crash weddings of every religion and nationality, doing variations on their lies at each one. So how do they do it? Sometimes it’s through charm: dancing with the flower girl, making balloon animals for the kids, etc. Other times, they give a sob story that usually ends with the words, We lost a lot of good men out there. The only hitch in the plan is that John is starting to doubt the maturity of their activities.
Eventually they get word that the Secretary of Commerce, William Cleary (Christopher Walken), is having a lavish wedding for his daughter. John is leery of crashing it, but Jeremy talks him into it. Once there, they both make moves on Cleary’s other daughters. John strikes up a genuine flirtation with Claire (Rachel McAdams) and finds that he might really be in love for the first time. Jeremy hooks up with Gloria (Isla Fisher), who turns out to be as kooky and obsessive as she is beautiful. Claire invites the guys to spend a long weekend at the family estate. There they meet her profanity-spewing grandma, her horny mother (Jane Seymour), and her creepy artist brother. Last – and certainly least – they meet Claire’s obnoxious boyfriend. John tries to woo her away from the jerk, while Gloria’s bizarre behavior puts Jeremy in one embarrassing situation after another (none of which I can describe on what I try to keep a relatively clean website).
Have you ever noticed that most movies with the word “wedding” in the title are sweet, female-driven love stories? Think My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Wedding Planner, Muriel’s Wedding, The Wedding Date, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Well, Wedding Crashers is the complete opposite of that; it’s a romantic comedy for the inner frat boy in all of us. With its unapologetically raunchy humor, the film wears its R rating as a badge of honor. I’d put it in a category with Old School or the original American Pie. If you liked those movies, then this one is right up your alley.
The only difference is that Wilson and Vaughn are clearly long-time buddies, so their camaraderie pops off the screen. I often had the feeling that the two were improvising and riffing off each other. While the screenplay certainly devises many hilarious situations for the characters to get into, the actors capitalize on their real-life friendship. It gives the whole movie a more inviting feeling because we so easily buy into their chemistry together. The guys are hysterically funny in the early scenes, where they shamelessly con their way into weddings and scam women. But because they are such inherently likeable actors, we also believe their eventual transformations. This could have been a cheesy “lesson learned” comedy except that Wilson and Vaughn sell it without getting all puppy dogs and ice cream on us (as Vaughn memorably put it in Swingers).
The supporting actors are also exceptionally well cast, which further elevates the admittedly sophomoric material. Rachel McAdams nicely makes Claire into a 3-dimensional character instead of just making her a generic babe. Unlike even many good screen romances, we believe that Claire and John could really be falling in love. And where McAdams proves to be a good match for Wilson’s goofy charm, Isla Fisher (I Heart Huckabee’s) goes toe-to-toe with Vaughn’s manic intensity. I won’t tell you how their situation resolves itself except to say that it made unexpected sense to me, in a demented kind of way. Jane Seymour and Christopher Walken also do nice supporting work, although the screenplay never finds time for one of those patented – and wonderfully weird – Walken monologues.
If I were to take a more critical approach in reviewing Wedding Crashers, I could certainly find faults. For starters, the arc of the characters is predictable. Wilson starts off as an uncaring playboy, but is humbled in the face of true love. No shockers there. The movie also has one of those generic idiot boyfriends – the kind who are so incessantly abrasive that you wonder how the heroine ever wound up with him in the first place. It’s also possible that Wedding Crashers is about 15 minutes too long. A lot of loose ends need to be tied up, and one of them is done with – you guessed it – a passionate speech delivered in front of a packed church.
The truth is that none of these things matter. Wedding Crashers is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a long time. Summer 2005 has been a season of good-but-not-great films. Here’s one that’s definitely worth running out to see. Like Old School or There’s Something About Mary, it’s the kind of picture where you’ll want to rehash all the outrageously funny moments with your friends. Seeing it (especially once it hits DVD) will become a rite of passage: people will show the movie to “newbies” as a way of experiencing it again for the first time. The dinner table scene in which Gloria crudely comes onto Jeremy had me laughing the hardest. Raunchy humor is easy to do but hard to do well; this film creates characters we believe in and care about, then adds the raunchiness on top. It gets the formula just right.
( 1/2 out of four)
Wedding Crashers is rated R for sexual content/nudity and language. The running time is 1 hour and 59 minutes.
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