A film review by Craig J. Koban
2005, R, 119 mins.
John Beckwith: Owen Wilson /
Jeremy Klein: Vince Vaughn /
Claire Cleary: Rachel McAdams /
Sec. Cleary: Christopher Walken /
Gloria Cleary: Isla Fisher /
Sack: Bradley Cooper /
Mrs. Cleary: Jane Seymour /
Grandma: Ellen Albertini Dow
To take a page out of the SWINGER's vernacular, there is no denying the fact that Vince Vaughn is just so dang money. You read that point with incredulous thoughts, do you? Well, maybe you should take a look at his newest comedy - WEDDING CRASHERS - for a special class in Vaughnism 101.
Quite frankly, Vaughn is the absolute cinematic master of the manic, seemingly sugar and caffeine induced, rapid fire, hyperactive, and frenzied spontaneous comic monologue. So many times in his past films (like SWINGERS and the disastrously underrated MADE) his lines are uttered so frenetically and with such lightening speed and rapidity that we are often left laughing not at what he is saying but how he said it.
There is a moment early on in WEDDING CRASHERS, the best American comedy thus far this year, which is indicative of my last point. The scene involves a co-worker that expresses an interest with setting him up on a blind date. Vaughn’s response to her is a meandering soliloquy of double talk, impenetrable logic, and frivolous ideas that sort of spirals illusively around to the point where he loses all credibility completely. For Vaughn, simply saying, “I don’t like blind dates” is clearly not enough. He has to explain himself in an obnoxiously thorough and, most times, hysterically inhuman detail the validation of his thought processes and reasoning. Much of what he says is not funny, per se, but Vaughn’s genius is in his comic timing, delivery, and, most crucially, energy, and he has it by the truck load in WEDDING CRASHERS. In the film he plays a man who’s own sexism, chauvinism, and penchant for being a complete jackass almost becomes an art form in their own right.
It should also be mentioned that he is teamed with the equally masterful Owen Wilson in the film, who is great in his own way as an underplayed, soft-spoken, disquietingly sarcastic man with a surfer boy drawl that is hard not to like. WEDDING CRASHERS headlines something so deceptively simple, yet so intangible to many other actors – some incredible star appeal and chemistry by its two leads who are so charming together that the film is just allowed to play off of their comic talents. The film is boisterously hilarious and I have yet to laugh as hard in a theatre all year. Now, some have commented to me that I have been both unscrupulously harsh and unapologetically kind in my reviews. Hmmmm…I am willing to accept that to be true…to a degree. I look at films relatively and, yes, I have been harsher on other genres because, frankly, they have a lot more to prove. Comedies place a lot less demands on their audiences and they all exist for one soul purpose – to make us laugh and laugh consistently.
Last year’s ANCHORMAN was the funniest film the year and it stridently adhered to my rule of cinematic comedies. It had that great scene where its character, Ron Burgundy (played by the brilliant Will Ferrell) tries to call into his office via a phone booth after he thinks his dog has been killed (“I am in a glass cage of emotion!!!”) Vaughn was also very funny in 2004’sDODGEBALL, where he led a team of misfits in the “ultimate sport of degradation”, some of which were either horribly out of shape, too geeky for their own good, or thought that they were pirates. Wilson was also funny in last year’s STARSKY AND HUTCH (also starring Vaughn) who had great comic chemistry with funny man Ben Stiller. Yet, when all is said and done, WEDDING CRASHERS emerges victorious as Vaughn’s and Wilson’s funniest comedy to date, and one that is unapologetically raunchy and crude, not to mention that it is daring enough to have its two leads do anything unprincipled and devious to get babes. How deceitful? Well, for one wedding they use fake Purple Hearts to pose as war heroes…so...that deceitful.
There have been people who take great pride in crashing parties, and then there is John (Wilson) and Jeremy (Vaughn) who take the pastime to unheard of levels. The two are almost militaristic in their party antics and they manage to take it beyond a level of silly and innocuous fun and pepper it up with a series of rules and regulations, so much so that it could almost be patented as a sport on ESPN8. I mean, not only do they have their own code of ethics and rules, but they also even do research! They never go into a wedding unprepared and their level of proactiveness to ensure their smooth, frat boy success is quite remarkable, which is also where much of the comedy originates. When Jeremy has a woman fall madly in love with him during one fling at a wedding, he goes into wedding crasher crisis mode and signals to John, “We need to abort, I got a stage 5 clinger!”
John and Jeremy are good at what they do, which might be an offshoot of their day jobs (they are mediators, and the first scene in the film demonstrates their use of charm and affable wit to win over their clients). Yet, by night…er…I mean…weekend…there are a pair of militant and trained wedding crashers who go to weddings, completely uninvited, and insinuate themselves into the festivities by, for the most part, pretending to be obscure and vaguely defined relatives that no one is willing to admit they can’t remember (“I am Uncle John’s son from his first marriage with Liz"). Well, they are very proficient and they do manage to score not only with the free booze (that is part of their reconnaissance work – wedding bars that charge are for amateurs), but also with many gorgeous ladies. There is a virtuoso montage early in the film that showcases their skills, where they attend the festivities of Italian, Jewish, Irish, and Indian (how they got into that one is beyond me) weddings and they are so skilled and polished at what they do that one becomes amazed that they don’t start a union.
Well, like most competitive sports, John and Jeremy realize that they are in the peak of wedding season, and Jeremy thinks he has hit the mother load – the wedding of the daughter of the US Treasury Secretary William Clearly (Christopher Walken, who inspires laughter when he does something simple like taking a sip of champagne). This sets up what they feel is the mother of all crashes, and for the most part they manage to get in and achieve great success. Unfortunately for the two hipsters, their success is marked with two serious setbacks. Firstly, Vaughn has hit it off too well with the Secretary’s youngest daughter (played very humorously by Isla Fisher as a sexaholic stalker) and secondly John falls very quickly for the other daughter, Claire (and looking at the radiant smile of THE NOTEBOOK’S Rachel McAdams it soon becomes apparent that any man could fall for her).
Okay, maybe it’s not so bad for the pair. Yet, it goes from bad to worse when the Secretary decides to invite the boys back to his private house for the weekend. Why do the two go ahead? Well, for starters, John wants to snuggle up to Claire and try to woe her over from the competition, in this case her insidiously violent and hot tempered fiancé Sack (ALIAS’ former resident nice guy Bradley Cooper). While John tries to do this, Jeremy flees for his swinger life as the other love struck sister tries to do everything possibly naughty to him to excite his sexual energies. There is even a somewhat pseudo-masochistic moment where she sexually tempts the hapless Jeremy with a bottle of antiseptic lotion after he has scrapped his knee, to which Jeremy screams, “Wait, can we talk about this!”
First and foremost, WEDDING CRASHERS is a breath of refreshingly offbeat and vulgar, R rated air. This is a sort of throwback film to the old school scatological and bawdy adult comedies of the 70’s and early 80’s, like ANIMAL HOUSE and STRIPES, where it never feels the need to tame its content down for the disagreeably favourable PG-13 rating, which seems to overwhelmingly impregnate other would-be crude comedies. The film is laced with nudity, foul language, sexual banter, under the table hand-job jokes, and all other Maxim-esque risqué content that one might expect from these types of films. WEDDING CRASHERS cheerfully embraces debauchery in a way that most other recent comedies have failed to do. This is also not another one of those rudimentary and exploitative R rated gigglefests that generates laughs based on bodily functions and gross out material (no one accidentally drinks bodily fluids or masturbates barn animals in this one…sorry Tom Green). No, the jokes here are situational and unfold with precise timing.
There is just so much inspired lunacy in this film. There is a funny moment at a dinner table where Jeremy has to fight off the under-the table advances of a sexually precocious sister, and yet another one where John has to fight off the advances of the Secretary’s promiscuous wife (played by Jane Seymour, and you’ll never look at Dr. Quinn - Medicine Woman the same way again). I also liked much of the more subtler sight gags, like how the men use eye drops to make them look like they are crying to pine for affection, or how the two will make wagers on which verse from the Bible will be spoken by the maid of honor at the ceremony (“I got $20 bucks on Corinthians!”).
The film is joyously rude, dirty, and blue, but the one interesting aspect about it is how sweet the proceedings actually become. Hidden beneath all of its naughty antics and laughs emerges a sort of congenial romantic comedy where John desperately tries to win over Claire. There are a lot of tender moments between John and Claire that work and McAdams plays her role so naturally, despite the outlandish antics around her. WEDDING CRASHERS is sort of a miracle film in a way – it’s an anti-romantic comedy that becomes a wicked romantic comedy. No one should mistake this film for being something overly sentimental and gushy, but it does have its heart in the right place…some of the time. Realistically, beyond all of John and Jeremy’s sexual proclivities and adherence to all things profane and distasteful, they are just a couple of warm-hearted lugs that want to be loved.
WEDDING CRASHERS falters only on a few occasions. The role of Claire’s fiancé is so incredibly forced in one direction as the script tries almost too hard to paint him as a violent and oppressive antagonist to John. Also, there is the role of Claire’s brother, a homosexual gothic, artsy-fartsy type that is funny to look at, but eventually comes across as more creepy and sinister than the object of any really motivated laughs. There are also a few scenes with Walken’s mother who has a racy tongue that would make even John and Jeremy blush. When are filmmakers going to learn that trash-talking old women that have potty mouths are not really intrinsically funny? Also, there is a small, but notable, comic cameo that seemed unnecessary to the proceedings, especially when you consider that the film is perhaps a bit too long for its own good.
Yet, nitpicking aside, WEDDING CRASHERS is a ridiculously funny slapstick and naughty riot, and it properly showcases how to use two actors and let them parade around using their own ad-libbing comic energies to their fullest. The film is also a blessing, in a way, in a cinematic world that seems possessed at releasing sanitized and routinely made PG-13 comedies to help secure the largest and most bland audience demographic possible. WEDDING CRASHERS is unabashedly adult and is wickedly funny through and through. Is this film rough, lewd, crass, and completely void of dignity, respect, and decency? Yes…and lovingly and unpretentiously so. You will not feel guilty waking up in the morning after seeing this film, one that both excitedly celebrates thirty-year-old party animals and chastises them at the same time.