Genre: Attempted Farce Comedy with a Side Order of Heart-String Tugging
Directed by: Justin Zackham
Starring: Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace, Susan Sarandon, Amanda Seyfried
Can I just say that The Big Wedding smells from herring and be done with it? I mean, look, chances are good that you already know this movie is awful. The title and the over-stuffed cast are a pretty big tipoff. The trailer was an even bigger clue. And while I completely disapprove of using review aggregator sites as a barometer of a film's merits, when you see a 7 percent approval rating, it is not unreasonable to have at least a modicum of suspicion that Hollywood is trying to sell us a load of clams that are well past their sell-by date. In the case of this movie, those suspicions would be more than founded. They would in fact yield interest and pay dividends. Searching for something positive to say about The Big Wedding, I'm coming up with things like, "Well, Robin Williams wasn't as obnoxious as a priest in this as he was in License to Wed." Considering that performance was completely off the obnoxiousity scale, it's quite useless as praise here. That said, "useless" is a pretty sound description of this whole film.
Those airbrushed shiny stars on the poster — they aren't laughing with you, they're laughing at you for shelling out money to see their new movie. (At least Diane Keaton has the grace to look slightly nauseated.) I am truly hard-pressed to believe that anybody involved with The Big Wedding ever thought at any stage that there was any merit whatsoever to the picture apart from a paycheck. From this, I exempt writer-director Justin Zackham. He wrote The Bucket List (2007) — a film which Morgan Freeman's character narrated from beyond the grave — so he may be that deluded. In case you don't know, The Big Wedding's premise is that long-divorced Don (Robert De Niro) and Ellie (Keaton) are forced to pretend that they're still married rather than upset their adopted son Alejandro's (Brit Ben Barnes with lots of makeup) devout Catholic birth mother (Patricia Rae) when she comes to his wedding with Missy (Amanda Seyfried). It's one of those plots that bears no scrutiny and tries your patience.
From this, comic gold — and a lot of people learning Important Stuff — is supposed to spring. All that springs forth, however, are clichés, things stolen from other movies, transparent "surprises" (come on, if you didn't figure out that Katherine Heigl was pregnant in the first reel, shame on you) and lame sex jokes that are supposed to provide edgy ribaldry. My parents had a 1960 Rusty Warren record called Knockers Up that was edgier. The biggest shock is when De Niro drops the dreaded "c" word (you know, the one America has trouble coming to terms with). This is a movie that resorts to puke jokes and people getting knocked into the water (more than once) in a vain bid for knee-slapping and rib-tickling. And the damned thing is only 89 minutes long — including credits.
The life lessons are nothing you haven't learned from heart-warming comedies before — though perhaps never in an R-rated one in which most of the characters seem to have slept with most of the rest of the characters at one time or another. That's not the reason why none of the movie's heart-stringing tugging works. It's not because the characters are on the amoral side. It's because they're mostly unlikable and completely dumb. That's a hard hurdle to clear and this miserably misguided mess couldn't make it over a speed bump. Rated R for language, sexual content and brief nudity.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande
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