A film review by Craig J. Koban May 7, 2013
THE BIG WEDDING
2013, R, 90 mins.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
despite playing a frankly incredulous character.
despite playing a frankly incredulous character.
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.
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.
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.