Film Review – The Big Wedding
Coming out of Justin Zackham’s The Big Wedding, I thought it would be nice for us to brush up on our vocabulary skills. Luckily, I’ve come up with a few words that are appropriate for the film in question. Pencils ready? Let’s begin:
Fluff (noun): 1) Light, downy particles, as of cotton. 2) Something of no consequence.
The second definition applies here. This is a complete fluff piece, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Not every film needs to be life-changing or philosophical; some can be simple escapism meant to distract us for a couple hours. I’m fine with that, as long as they’re entertaining. Unfortunately, this film fails to accomplish its task. Instead of something fun, we get a recycled plot, clunky writing, and performances showcasing little commitment. Which brings us to our next word…
Sitcom (noun, informal): Situation comedy.
This plot is straight out of a badly conceived television sitcom. We are introduced to a family that’s meant to be unique, but comes off as unremarkable. Don (Robert De Niro) and Ellie (Diane Keaton) were married, but are now divorced (although they seem to be pretty close for a couple who can’t stand each other). They have three kids: the cynical Lyla (Katherine Heigl), who can barely tolerate being with the family, Jared (Topher Grace), a doctor in his late 20s who’s still a virgin, and their adopted son Alejandro (Ben Barnes), who graduated Harvard and speaks multiple languages—he’s so perfect he could say he cured cancer and people would believe him. To make matters more interesting, there’s Don’s current girlfriend, Bebe (Susan Sarandon). Bebe is an alternative-living kind of person—oh, and she was once Ellie’s best friend (before she hooked up with Don).
Alejandro is engaged to Missy (Amanda Seyfried), and they are made for one another. There is one problem: Alejandro’s biological mother, Madonna (Patricia Rae), is a strict Catholic, and is flying in all the way from Columbia for the wedding. If she learns that Alejandro’s adoptive parents are divorced, she may not approve and will refuse to give her blessing. And thus, Don and Ellie must pretend to still be in love, and Bebe must pretend not to care about this whole arrangement. Hijinks ensue, of course. Strange, how a family that seems so open with each other would go to great lengths to fabricate a lie for a person they’ve never met.
Stereotype (noun): 1) A set form; convention. 2) A simplified and standardized conception or image invested with special meaning and held in common by members of a group.
Stereotypes run rampant here, from character traits to various cultures and belief systems. Madonna is the rigid-as-nails, inflexible lady of tradition. She constantly looks with disapproving eyes, always hesitant about everything and everyone around her. During one particular scene, she watches Don and Ellie try to pull off their scheme while holding and praying with a rosary. As for Missy’s parents Barry (David Rasche) and Muffin (Christine Ebersole), they are portrayed as uncultured, dumb Americans who care more about their image than sensitivity towards other people. While at the rehearsal dinner, Muffin recommends the chef do away with his normal food, and make chimichangas for their visitors. Because that’s what Columbians eat, apparently. I suppose this generalized view of people was meant to be awkwardly funny. It was “awkward” all right, but “funny”? Not so much.
Juvenile (adjective): 1) Young; youthful. 2) Immature; childish; infantile.
The actors deserved to be in a romantic comedy that has some clever wit and creativity, but what they get only a pubescent would find hilarious. Don is an eager sex-addict, who makes sculptures of women fondling themselves and freely admits to fantasizing about other women. He’s about as opposite of “faithful” as you can get, and will brag about how long his sexual drive can last, even if that sex is with someone other than his current lover. Jared is well on his way there too, as his frustration with still being a virgin makes him willing to sleep with anything that has a pulse. Luckily for him, Alejandro’s biological sister, Nuria (Ana Ayora), flies in with Madonna, and almost immediately flings herself into Jared’s pants. Let me repeat that in another context: Alejandro’s adoptive brother develops a sexual attraction to Alejandro’s biological sister, and she’s more than willing to act on it. I bet trying to draw out their family tree would be an exercise in futility.
Formulaic (adjective): Made according to a formula; composed of formulas.
That’s what The Big Wedding is, one being formulaic product that has been done countless—and better—times before. The characters are generic, and whatever issues they may have are wrapped up oh so nicely by the end. A movie can tread familiar waters, as long as it attempts to do so in a different way, which this doesn’t. And that brings us to our final word of the day…
Mediocre (adjective): 1) Of only ordinary or moderate quality; barely adequate. 2) Not satisfactory; poor; inferior.
Final Grade: D+