It's impossible to write about The Big Wedding without damning it with faint praise. It has the sort of cast that once would have once been a selling point but is now cause for skepticism, and its sprawling plot is haphazard at best. It's worth a chuckle or two, but nothing happens that you couldn't guess from sitting through the first half hour. It's probably better than writer/director Justin Zackham's script for The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, but you'd have to find someone who actually saw that saccharine mess to know.
Diane Keaton and Robert De Niro star as Ellie and Don Griffin, a divorced couple whose adopted son is getting married. Don is shacked up with Ellie's former best friend Bebe, played by Susan Sarandon, who's become a close mother figure to the grown Griffin brood. Unfortunately for Bebe, the groom-to-be Alejandro (Ben Barnes, wearing a lot of bronzer) never told his Catholic mother back in Colombia that his parents are divorced, and since she's on her way to the nuptials, he asks Ellie and Don to pretend to still be married. Why anyone goes along with this is beyond logic — but logic isn't important here. What is important is that there are plenty of awkward sexual situations (De Niro listing euphuisms for cunnilingus!), bodily functions (De Niro getting vomited on!), and slapstick (De Niro being punched in the face!).
The rest of the plot is rather exhausting to get into and plays on all sorts of icky cultural stereotypes. Alejandro's biological sister Nuria (Ana Ayora) is a gorgeous, hypersexual Latina who doesn't realize she should make men work for it until Ellie tells her about American woman's mores and some sort of possibly feminist jibber-jabber. (If Zackham read any of the hand-wringing essays or books on hook-up culture, he'd realize this is complete BS.) Alejandro's mom doesn't speak English and mostly clutches her rosary while looking on disapprovingly. Topher Grace appears as Alejandro's brother, a doctor who decided at 15 that he'd stay a virgin until he fell in love, an idea that he tosses out as soon as Nuria sheds her clothes to go for a dip in their pond. Katherine Heigl is yet another sibling with problems; she left her husband because they couldn't get pregnant, but now she's upset because he hasn't tried to get in touch with her even though she left him. Amanda Seyfried is Alejandro's fiancée; her parents are WASP-y racists who are apparently horrified that their daughter is marrying someone wearing a lot of bronzer. There's some kerfuffle about Catholicism, so they've hauled in Robin Williams to appear as a priest; he actually plays it pretty straight, which is probably for the best. The themes are: double standards, fear of revealing our true selves to the ones we love, and uproarious revelations. Except not that uproarious.
Based on the French film Mon frère se marie, The Big Wedding is ultimately as forgettable as its generic title. Zackham relies on 360 degree pans and treacly music to try and rouse the audience to care, but that's no replacement for a decent script. The only thing that sticks is De Niro's saucy satyr, which is a refreshing change from his more recent films. Keaton and Sarandon are a pleasing pair, and they deserve not only much better than this, but their own movie about cool female friends in their fifties. In fact, if everything about the wedding was scrapped and this was rewritten as a dramedy about the complicated relationship between these three, you might have an interesting movie.
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We've seen Greek weddings, Polish weddings, American weddings, best friends' weddings, wedding planners, wedding crashers, wedding singers, four weddings and a funeral... but a wedding as big as The Big Wedding has yet to walk down the aisle. The aisle of glory. Paramount Studios has announced a wedding so big that you yourself would have to become physically larger in order to appropriately comprehend the film. It's a wedding for giants: proverbial giants, like Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton, but also actual mythological creatures of behemoth anatomical proportions. Well, perhaps that's just wishful thinking on my part (I almost always hope that Giants will turn out to be revealed in a twist ending when I am watching romantic comedies). Nevertheless, De Niro and Keaton are not the only titans of cinema involved in this film. Also included: the indelible Susan Sarandon. The electric fjord that is Robin Williams. Plus, Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace, Amanda Seyfried, and, speaking of mythological creatures, Ben Barnes.
The real question is: how much bigger could a wedding get? Fueled by this madhouse of célébrité, you can bet that this matrimonium will be at least one-and-a-half times the size of the Royal Wedding. Writing ad directing is Justin Zackham, who is responsible for, if nothing else, inserting the phrase "bucket list" into the public lexicon (so far on mine, I've checked off "Get stuck in an elevator" and "Get stranded in a foreign country").
This is shaping up to to be the social event of the season, so I won't be surprised if a slew of acting talent begins clamoring for roles as crazy uncles. A wedding this big cannot go unattended.
Today in family-dramas-that-reek-of-cliche-endings-but-actually-might-be-kind-of-good news, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Katherine Heigl and Amanda Seyfried have all signed on for Gently Down The Stream, an upcoming indie comedy to be written and directed by Justin Zackham (The Bucket List). The picture will center De Niro and Keaton as a long-divorced couple who pretend they're still married for their adopted son's wedding, but then apparently realize that, oh yeah, they are divorced and it's pretty hard to pretend to like your ex.
Zackham spoke of his excitement for the film, saying he wants to "continue what we started with on The Bucket List -- iconic actors in a funny, adult, character-driven story, albeit with a little more sex and bad behavior on everyone's part."
Since he mentioned The Bucket List, we might as well go ahead and say that The Bucket List is the exact reason why this film doesn't sound like a very good idea (hint: because it sucks) and "continuing" that, well, just seems downright insane. But then again, this is the same man who created FX's brilliant boxing drama Lights Out (R.I.P.), so maybe he actually does know what he's doing. Regardless, this movie has Katherine Heigl in it, so let's just go ahead and link to "her" picture and laugh.
Edward Cole (Nicholson) and Carter Chambers (Freeman) find themselves sharing a hospital room when each is diagnosed with cancer. Realizing that their time is short they create a “bucket list”--a list of things to do before they shuffle off this mortal coil. It’s a good thing that Edward is so wealthy; money is no object for their globe-hopping excursion as they try to cram what’s left of their lives with memories. Thrown together by their mutual tragic circumstance Edward and Carter come to a better understanding of each other--and of themselves--as they come to terms with their terminal illness. The basic concept of the film may seem grim but Justin Zackham’s script has its share of uplifting and light-hearted moments--and a few cloying ones too. Let’s face it. We’re talking Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson here two of the best American actors around. Both have made their fair (and unfair) share of disappointing movies but this modest comedy/drama is not among them. It’s that selfsame modesty that keeps this film grounded in tearjerker territory--although it’s a superior example of the genre as well as being something of an anomaly in that it focuses entirely on two men. The film plays to their strengths: Nicholson is fiery and ill-tempered Freeman is low-key and noble. It’s genuinely a pleasure to watch these two titans teamed up but the odds are admittedly in their favor. And in the end they make it look wonderfully easy. Sean Hayes takes everything in stride in the role of Nicholson’s resilient right-hand man and Beverly Todd makes the absolute most of her role as Freeman’s troubled wife but Rob Morrow is wasted as the resident oncologist perennially delivering bad news. Maybe his role ended up a victim of the editor’s shears or maybe he just wanted to work with Nicholson and Freeman. Freeman’s real-life son Alfonso also appears as one of Carter’s children and an unbilled Kelly Preston pops up too. After several disappointing films--The Story of Us Alex & Emma Rumor Has It-- this is undoubtedly director Rob Reiner’s best film in years. Admittedly with Nicholson and Freeman in your corner it’s a golden opportunity and Reiner takes full advantage. The prickliness is there. The camaraderie is there. The emotional resonance is there. It’s all there--and it’s almost entirely due to the teamwork of Reiner and his two stars whose chemistry is clear from the outset. The only drawback is Marc Shaiman’s syrupy score which is a bit too much at times.