30 May 2013


This doesn't look good. While our minds must always remain open, (no matter what might fly into it,) you'd be forgiven for swerving The Big Wedding on the basis of that trailer alone. Maybe it's just that I've deliberately swerved a lot of bad movies this year, but I was braced to be hit by a ton of badness when I sat down to watch this one. Things didn't quite pan out that way, and I couldn't have been prepared for quite how rude and grown-up this one turned out to be.

The basic premise could have come from a dozen other much worse romcom farce movies, but is actually based on the 2007 French-Swiss comedy Mon frère se marie (My Brother Is Getting Married). Don and Ellie are long since divorced, and are only really bonded by their grown-up children Lyla and Jared, and their adopted son Alejandro. Alejandro's Colombian mother is visiting the States for her son's wedding, and devoutly believes that divorce is a sin. And so, his adoptive parents jump through hoops to make her believe that they are still the happy couple to whom she entrusted her son, much to the consternation of Don's new wife.

You might be surprised to hear that the film itself opens with Robert De Niro going down on Susan Sarandon, while Diane Keaton looks on. The film has received a 15 certificate in the UK, which I didn't know about before the BBFC card appeared on-screen at the cinema, for "strong language, once very strong, and strong sex references." If you know what "once very strong" means, in this context, and if you do, you'll know that this ain't your fluffy Nancy Meyers-y romantic comedy. De Niro probably hasn't sworn this much in a movie since Taxi Driver.

Does a more adult approach mean that it's any better than the fluff I expected? Perhaps not, because it still failed to raise many laughs from me. But it is gratifying to see a romantic comedy that has a more grown-up approach to things. From the trailer, you might think that De Niro and Keaton are going to get back together, and Sarandon's character's feelings will merely be collateral damage. That's what happens in most of these movies, with the ousted partner usually getting thrown a bone in the form of an alternative love interest. That it doesn't unfold in that way is one of a few big(ish) surprises in The Big Wedding.

Another is that Katherine Heigl isn't totally awful, and that the pairing of De Niro and Heigl as father and daughter doesn't result in the latter being blown away by even the most half-arsed, cheque-collecting efforts of the former. They actually have some scenes together that border on being moving. De Niro seems more present here than he has in a while- while this was never (EVER) going to be one of his best films, he seems quite content that it's merely got a better script than most of his latter-day efforts. Aside from this, and the bearable lightness of Heigl, the majority of the cast seems to be on fine form.

As mentioned though, it doesn't really bring the laughs. It gives way to slapstick far too easily, and though it inevitably descends into farce by the time the titular wedding rolls around, that's still the section of the movie that's most likely to elicit chuckles. Still, writer-director Justin Zackham can't fail to cover a lot of ground with its myriad subplots- just about every character has their own thing going on within the grand scheme of things. It's tough to dispel the notion that the opinions of Alejandro's mother don't really count, even when the script repeatedly acknowledges that it's a silly setup, but even that level of self-awareness probably helped a lot in making this tolerable.

The Big Wedding is not a film that you'll treasure forever, and nor does it score particularly highly on the LOL-ometer. But in the vein of comedies like It's Complicated and Hope Springs, it's easy to imagine it being a hit with an older audience. I read one review that said this would be a good film to watch with your mother, which I think would depend entirely on how comfortable you are with watching older actors have sex, and talk about having sex. As the whole film goes, your mileage may vary on that exact point, but if I can avoid damning with faint praise by saying this, this was refreshing in its not-awfulness.

The Big Wedding is now showing in cinemas nationwide. 
If you've seen The Big Wedding, why not share your comments below? It's still funnier than The Hangover Part III. Much less nasty too.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

No comments: