By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — By the authority vested in me, I now pronounce The Big Wedding a bomb. You may now hiss the bride. And the groom. And the guests. And the director.
Especially the director.
The problem is right there in the title, which was changed from The Wedding to The Big Wedding. Adding the word “big” doesn’t change or improve anything in this strident wannabe farce, especially when the director, Justin Zackham, telegraphs, underlines, or overemphasizes every single joke.
Based on the 2006 Franco-Swiss film Mon Frère se Marie (My Brother is Getting Married) -– and making it seem as if humor just doesn’t travel across the sea -– The Big Wedding starts off awkwardly and uncomfortably from the very first scene and never recovers.
Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton are the long-divorced Don and Ellie Griffin. When their adopted son, a Colombian played by Ben Barnes, invites them to his upcoming nuptials, they’re forced to make believe they’re still married -– and happily at that -– because the groom’s Catholic birth mother has never been told that her son’s adoptive parents have divorced.
Premises don’t come much flimsier.
Anyway, predictable chaos ensues. Laughs, unfortunately, do not.
With Amanda Seyfried as the bride, Katherine Heigl and Topher Grace as the bride’s siblings, Robin Williams as the offbeat priest performing the ceremony, and Susan Sarandon as the father-of-the-groom’s current live-in girlfriend and the affair’s caterer, the film doesn’t lack for star power or experience. But none of it pays off.
Writer-director Zackham, with Going Greek and the screenplay for The Bucket List on his résumé, fails in both capacities: his cringeworthy screenplay, so self-consciously sexual that it comes off as immature and vulgar, is triggered by a convoluted and unpersuasive premise and is populated by thinly drawn and unconvincing, cartoonish characters in synthetically constructed relationships.
So director Zackham would have been better off with a different screenwriter. Any different screenwriter.
But screenwriter Zackham would have benefitted from a more knowing and adept director, someone who wouldn’t squander a skilled cast boasting four Oscars winners (De Niro, Keaton, Sarandon, and Williams) by pushing them into unnatural line readings that plead for laughs instead of establishing the three-dimensionality of their characters.
Most of the ensemble members’ energy seems to have gone into hiding their understandable embarrassment.
And we’re embarrassed for them, which is why we’re so grateful that the film is at least mercifully brief (under 90 minutes). Time barely pulsates when you’re not having fun.
So we’ll marry 1½ stars out of 4 for this dreadful, divorced-from-reality comedy. By any imaginable measure, The Big Wedding is small potatoes.