A film review by Craig J. Koban May 7, 2013


2013, R, 90 mins.


Amanda Seyfried as Missy O'Connor /  Katherine Heigl as Lyla Griffin /  Robert De Niro as Don Griffin /  Robin Williams as Father Monaghan /  Topher Grace as Jared Griffin /  Diane Keaton as Ellie Griffin /  Susan Sarandon as Bebe McBride

Written and directed by Justin Zackham

At one point in THE BIG WEDDING Robert De Niro – in response to a thorny question – emphatically replies, “I’d rather gouge out my eyes with hot spoons.”  

That rather blunt retort sums up what I'd rather do than see this film ever again.  Enduring THE BIG WEDDING is an awful lot like being forced against your will to attend the nuptials of people you loathe surrounded by dozens of others that are barely tolerable.  Of all of the films that I’ve seen in all of my time that include four – count ‘em…four ­– Oscar winners...and Katherine Heigl...this has to positively be the most atrocious.  

This wedding comedy – the latter term being used ever-so-loosely – is adapted from a 2006 French film Mon frère se marie, but it might as well been sluggishly adapted from a one-note premise scribbled on a cocktail napkin.  Of the film’s pleasures - which, I assure you, are not many - is the presence of so many limitlessly esteemed and talented performers, the likes of which include De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, and Robin Williams, just to name a few.  Yet, the rather blandly entitled THE BIG WEDDING is a garbled disaster of a matrimony film in the way that it betrays all of their abilities by abandoning them in a tone-deaf, cliché-riddled, aggressively unfunny, and frequently unbearable-to-watch storyline.  

You know you are in trouble when – during the film's first five minutes – you have the likes of De Niro and Sarandon trying to do what they can in a kitchen sex scene that involves them both trying to make the term “cunnilingus” uproariously hysterical.  A few minutes in, it’s impossible to not hate this film.  Alas, THE BIG WEDDING in question belongs to Alejandro (Ben Barnes) and his soon-to-be-bride Missy (Amanda Seyfried).  The groom is the adopted son of Don (De Niro) and his ex-wife, Ellie (Keaton), who have been divorced for a number of years.  Don now lives with his girlfriend, Bebe (Sarandon) in the house that he once shared with Ellie.  The couple’s other kids – a 29-year-old virginal doctor, Jared (Topher Grace) and Layla (Heigl), a high power attorney unlucky in love – return home for the “big day," but it all begins rather awkwardly when Ellie stumbles on that aforementioned scene involving Don attempting to perform oral sex on Bebe on the kitchen counter; it's about as cringe-inducingly void of laughs and comic timing as any I’ve seen. 




Things get complicated when it’s revealed that Alejandro’s biological mother from Columbia (Patricia Rae) is an uber strict minded Catholic, who of course views marriage as holy ground and divorce as a hell-worthy offence.  Now, in what I like to call the real world, everyone would openly and honestly discuss their inherent difference and try to move forward, but the insipidly written characters here decide that the best course of action would be to deceive the mother that Don and Ellie are still very much in love and married.  Clearly, this pisses Bebe off, not to mention Ellie, who despite being cordial with her ex-husband, has no desire to pretend to be with him again.  Of course, as the deception continues through the wedding weekend, unrelenting predictability ensues: Don rediscovers his love for his ex; Layla tries to reconcile with a father she hates; Alejandro and Missy get pulled apart by the stress of deceiving his mother; and – wouldn’t ya know it? – Jared gets taken in with Alejandro’s smoking hot Columbian sister (Ana Ayora), who conveniently seems willing to grant him his ultimate wish to be deflowered, despite the fact that – yuck – they are about to become family members. 

THE BIG WEDDING feels egregiously like a silly, infantile, and hard-to-swallow 30-minute TV sitcom desperately masquerading as a 90-minute feature film, mostly because it's populated less by flesh-and-blood and empathetic human beings and more by one-dimensional puppets at the mercy of a woefully forced, contrived and logic defying screenplay.  Where is the fun to be had in having to undergo an hour and a half of witnessing these selfish and generally irritable people treat each other like garbage?  Usually, the presence of appealing and likeable actors is enough to help elevate mediocre material, but the underlining plot here is so dead-on-arrival and phoned-in that you feel more embarrassment for the denigrated performers than anything else.  Of the two performances I didn’t mind, the first would be De Niro, and as much as this is a pathetic paycheck grab for him, he at least tries to make his recovering alcoholic/pretentious windbag a rounded figure of interest.  Then there's Grace, whom has an easy-going charm that makes him hard to abhor despite playing a frankly incredulous character.

Yet, just about everyone else here is playing a cardboard cutout stock type; Keaton is idiosyncratic to the point of chronic irritability; Sarandon looks humiliated to be participating in this mess; Heigl – playing her umpteenth super hot professional woman that can’t find true love role – never makes her character someone to latch on to and root for; and, hell, even Robin Williams – who does keeps his schtick down – is wasted in a nothing role of a saintly priest that’s trying to make sense of the family madness that surrounds him.  It’s also particularly difficult to sit through inept and sluggish scenes of adept actors trying as they may to make dialogue exchanges about erectile dysfunction, nine hour orgasms, and gags involving other bodily functions ring with any semblance of wit and humor.  THE BIG WEDDING almost seems to be going out of its way for its potty-mouthed R-rating throughout, and its desperation shows. 

This movie’s plot is also – for lack of a better word – dumb.  It’s dumb that we are asked to swallow that any family would ever agree to let their future in-laws believe that a divorced couple are still happily married.  It’s dumb how one character's unexplained tummy ache and sickness is later revealed to be a would-be plot-shocking pregnancy.  It’s dumb that a handsome, gainfully employed, and single dude like Jared would have difficulty scoring with women.  It’s dumb that his future sister-in-law would tease him with easy, consequence-free sex, only later to rescind it.  It’s dumb how all of these characters’ indiscretions and lies come to a head on the day of the wedding, leaving everyone unavoidably mad at each other at a time when everyone should be content.  Dumb…dumb…dumb

The direction from Justin Zackman (who wrote the disagreeably terrible THE BUCKET LIST) shows no inspiration, innovation or faculty for understanding how to engage the actors and make this material really work with even a modest efficiency.  An interview he did before THE BIG WEDDING was released is telling, as he revealed his hopes for the audiences seeing film: “I hope they have fun. I hope they laugh. And I hope that they kind of see themselves in it a little bit- that they take away this idea that there's always the crazy people in a family, but ultimately that they come out feeling good and feeling like I get these people.”  

Clearly, he has far too many unattainable hopes for THE BIG WEDDING. 

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