The Good: Moments of performance
The Bad: Predictable plot, Droll character arcs, Much of the direction and acting, Jokes and dramatic moments alike fall flat.
The Basics: Despite having an Oscarbait cast, The Big Wedding gives women and adults nothing substantial to watch this Summer Blockbuster Season.
I cannot think of a film in recent memory where I was so uninvested in how the film’s characters and plotlines would reach a resolution as with The Big Wedding. The last few years, as Summer Blockbuster Season has loomed, many of the smaller or more substantive production companies try to release counterprogramming to the big special effects-driven movies. They go after a mature audience and women with films like last year’s Hope Springs (reviewed here!). This year, Lionsgate tried to get into that niche right out of the gate with The Big Wedding.
The Big Wedding is intended to be a family comedy with the usual tearjerker moments, but the film directed by its co-writer (or co-adapter, as it appears to have been based upon a French film) Justin Zackham is so thoroughly obvious and banal that most of the surprises are anything but and both the humor and dramatic moments fall painfully flat. The Big Wedding reminded me of a limited season television series The Big Day, which was also about a family gathering for a wedding and all of the mayhem that ensues. The difference is that that summer television show had a less well-known cast, but used all the players exceptionally well. The Big Wedding hopes the viewer will be blown away by the presence of Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Amanda Seyfried, and (I suppose) Katherine Heigl and Topher Grace that they won’t notice how poorly those performers are being used. Out of the bunch, only Susan Sarandon is given the chance to truly blow the audience away and she does in a single scene where her character, Bebe, does not say a word, but witnesses Don (her longterm boyfriend) and Ellie (her best friend, from whom she stole Don away years before, breaking up their marriage) having a moment where their chemistry is evident and Sarandon emotes so much with her face that one has to feel sorry for Bebe.
But, alas, one moment and one decent line (which, I swear, I have already forgotten, but it comes near the end of the movie) are not enough to make a flick worth watching and The Big Wedding falls into exactly that trap.
Alejandro, the adopted son of Don and Ellie, is getting married to his virtual nonentity of a girlfriend, Missy. So, the families are converging on Don and Bebe’s, despite there being a lot of tension in the family. Lyla’s marriage is falling apart and she is estrange from her father, Don. Lyla is feeling sick from something entirely obvious that her sexually unfulfilled doctor brother, Jared, investigates for her on their way to their parent’s house. Ellie, arriving early, lets herself in and comes across her good friend and her ex-husband and feels out of place. When Alejandro arrives, he breaks some bad news to his parents; his biological mother, Madonna, who has been invited to the wedding, thinks divorce is the greatest sin imaginable.
Rather than telling her to stuff it, in America we have divorce and the family is not as Super Catholic as she is, everyone decides to bend over backwards for the woman who gave Alejandro up for adoption. This means that Bebe, who has been like a mother to Alejandro, bows out (though she soon resurfaces as part of the catering staff for the wedding) and Don and Ellie pretend for Madonna that they are still married. At the same time, Jared hits very heavily on Alejandro’s biological sister and Lyla whines about the past as Ellie comes to the realizations that she truly is over Don.
The Big Wedding is just, unfortunately, stupid. We’ve seen all the clichés in movies in recent years. The whole “exes hook up” thing was done much better in It’s Complicated (reviewed here!) and the elements of addition featuring prominently at a wedding was Rachel Getting Married (reviewed here!) in a nutshell. But, any film that belabors a woman with marital issues getting queasy constantly and then acts like it is a huge revelation that the character is pregnant is just insulting. I swear, Katherine Heigl’s Lyla is the last one to figure out she’s pregnant.
What The Big Wedding has outside belabored exposition and a painfully ridiculous plot that would be a farce if only it were funny, so it is just mind-numbingly pathetic as it is here as (at best) a dramedy, is an impressive cast. Unfortunately, the cast is not used very well at all. Amanda Seyfried plays Missy (the bride) and she makes so little impression in this role that one wonders why she chose to do it at all. That’s okay because, despite being Latino, Alejandro (played by Ben Barnes) is such a white bread character that the two fit one another perfectly. Robin Williams’ role as the Catholic Priest Father Moinighan would have been audacious . . . if only Justin Zackham had produced the film fifteen years ago. As it stands, though, the ironic casting and usage of Williams as a Priest is a flat retreading of what Kevin Smith did with George Carlin (to much better effect) in Dogma (reviewed here!).
Topher Grace is fine as Jared, Katherine Heigl might as well be going for her Razzie as Lyla (you can always count on Heigl for doing that dumbstruck expression once per film, much like how Ben Affleck used to cry once per movie, and she doesn’t disappoint for the miniscule niche audience that still finds that charming or original), and the powerhouse casting of Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon and Diane Keaton results in three performers constantly straining to do interesting things with their listless characters. Sarandon gets her moment and De Niro reminds us that he can perform when Don gets drunk, but Keaton’s part is unfortunately interchangeable with so many others she has had over the years . . . except here her character comes to an obvious conclusion she seemed to come into the film with.
The Big Wedding is not worth watching; not on the big screen, not on DVD when it comes out and not even when it is on network television edited for content and bloated with commercials. It is one of the surest racehorses for next year’s Razzies . . . if only the pundits even remember it exists at that time.
For other works with Topher Grace, please check out my reviews of:
In Good Company
For other film reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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