Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Cinema File #189: "The Big Wedding" Review

There comes a point when you post movie reviews on a semi-daily basis where the grind to see more and more movies you wouldn't otherwise see purely for the purposes of amassing online content leads to something like The Big Wedding. Had this movie come out this time last year when I was only seeing movies I actually had an interest in, none of us would be here right now. For me to come up now and talk about how much I disliked it seems a little unfair in this light. I knew I wasn't going to get anything out of this movie, and I didn't.

The Big Wedding follows a large extended family coming together for the wedding of an adopted son who convinces his divorced parents to pretend to be married for his traditionally Catholic birth-mother. Its apparently based on a French farce that suggests a lot of wacky misunderstandings and public displays of embarrassing family secrets, all of which technically happen, just never rising to the crescendo of madcap silliness that you would want in a movie like this. It goes through the motions, but as the cast balloons out of proportions, nobody seems to be having any fun or trying all that hard to make it work. As a result, I can't tell if the unflinching unlikability of the characters is a deliberate narrative choice, or just the result of nobody giving a shit. 

The farcical element is the biggest sin of this movie, specifically in that there is a complete lack of pay off. I know that probably sounds strange in the context of a movie that telegraphs how disappointing it will be as obviously as The Big Wedding does, but the point of movies like this is the expectation of that one explosive moment where best laid plans go awry. When what passes for that moment finally comes, it’s such an insulting let down that it inspired an ire in me that almost made me forget how little emotional investment I had in the movie up to that point. I am reminded of a line in Hyde Park On Hudson, when FDR remarks on the potential excitement of an upcoming event by saying that he should have sold tickets, when it turns out to be a relatively mundane affair. This movie is like that, except without the novelty of an idyllic Roosevelt handjob.

To place into perspective just how much I disliked this movie, all I can say is that my favorite part was the cameo by Robin Williams wherein he all but reprises his role of the crazy clergyman from License to Wed. His is the only character I had any reason to enjoy, and he’s on screen for all of five minutes. The rest of the cast is divided between actors I like (DeNiro, Keaton, Sarandon) in thankless roles that only make me sad that they aren’t doing something better, and actors I generally dislike (Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace) giving me no reason to re-evaluate my opinion of them. The latter group is especially annoying when you realize about a half hour in that their characters have nothing really to do with the premise and given that neither subplot is particularly interesting, they could have and should have been excised completely from the movie.

Heigl famously criticized Judd Apatow for perpetuating a standard of sexism by never giving women the kinds of substantive roles they deserve. She then proceeded to make a career out of deliberately infusing this criticism with irony by starring in the most vacuous and trifling movies every made, of which The Big Wedding is merely the latest, regrettably teaming up with Robert DeNiro’s equally inexplicable post-Fockers mission to make us all forget why we used to like him. This feels more like a vacation than a movie, like Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups, a flimsy excuse to give its cast and crew a nice little holiday in Connecticut. Whether or not the resulting footage could be cobbled together into anything worth watching was apparently incidental. And no, in case you were still wondering, it isn’t.

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