The Big Wedding – 2013

Written and Directed by Justin Zackham
Starring Amanda Seyfried, Katherine Heigl, Robert DeNiro, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Robin Williams, Ben Barnes, Topher Grace, Christine Ebersole, David Rache, Patricia Rae, Ana Ayora
Based on Mon frère se marie by Jean-Stéphane Bron and Karine Sudan

“What is wrong with you?” a question asked by daughter Lila (Heigl), when she discovers that her divorced father Don (DeNiro) just got through having a 40 minute love-making session with her mother and his ex-wife Ellie (Keaton).  Strangely, this is one of the least offensive storylines in The Big Wedding.  What can one expect, though.  It’s a French import.  Sex, not love, is the big motivator for everyone who is attending this event.  The only ones who seem to be taking it seriously is the couple (Barnes and Seyfried).  That’s enough to make them minor characters.

There are plenty of things to despise in The Big Wedding, yet, I can’t quite dismiss it.  The writing is pretty consistent, through out, and not nearly as pandering as it could have been.  The acting is actually good.  DeNiro and Heigl share one of the better moments a little later.  Keaton and Sarandon do work well together, even if they are best friends who still consider each other so after a 10 year break caused by an affair started by the latter and DeNiro which ended the former’s marriage.  Yeah, we don’t buy it either, but they go a long way to presenting themselves as cordial.  Grace, Barnes and Heigl make believable loving siblings.  They even managed to make Robin Williams less annoying than he has been since Good Will Hunting.  He’s still kind of annoying, though.

How can one not be when playing a caricature of a self-obsessed Catholic priest?  The church suffers many slings and arrows.  It is perpetually used as a punching bag, but then, that’s nothing new.  The important thing is that none of those jokes work.  Hollywood should take note of how much this film tanked.

Two of the Catholics (Barnes’ biological mother and sister played by Rae and Ayora, respectively), visiting from Colombia, create a stir with their pending arrival.  In true wacky hi-jinks fashion, the family decides that they must hide the divorce and play nice for the weekend.  Of course, one thing leads to another in every way possible.  Not one person will be surprised to discover that the good Catholics are not what they seem.

The humor works, when it’s not forced.  Almost every scene with Ebersole’s Muffin is delightful.  I won’t tell you why, but the name, “Muffin” should clue you in.  The acting is also effectively tender when it needs to be.  Even with the pedigree, this is somewhat surprising.  Everyone involved (aside from the Colombia contingent) has been in some of the worst cinema in recent history.  They’ve also been in some good stuff, too.

When it gets down to it, The Big Wedding isn’t anything more than a financial bomb in their careers.  Zackham, whose earlier work includes the screenplay to the remarkably good The Bucket List, does a commendable job converting the French trash into something that will not be entirely remembered as crap.  It’s almost good.  Not quite.  This could be enough, but I won’t guarantee anything.

(**1/2 out of *****)

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