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The Big Wedding

2013 | 89 min | R | 2.39:1

The Big Wedding


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Theatrical release date

 26 April, 2013
 31 May, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

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Screenshots from The Big Wedding Blu-ray

The Big Wedding Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, April 26, 2013

It doesn't take long, perhaps five minutes, before it's abundantly clear that "The Big Wedding" is going to be of no use. Commencing with vague introductions, the material is soon asking Robert De Niro to prepare Susan Sarandon for an impromptu session of oral sex on a kitchen countertop before Diane Keaton nervously interrupts, resulting in a touch of physical comedy as the amorous characters try to find their composure while dealing with dangling underwear and an untamable erection. It's how the movie begins, folks, and the next 80 minutes aren't an improvement. Unlikable, unthinkable, and unwatchable, "The Big Wedding" proves that bright stars and a reliable romantic event is no match for an ugly and tone-deaf screenplay, chased by amateur direction.

Missy (Amanda Seyfried) and Alejandro (Ben Barnes, in orangeface) are preparing for their wedding day, cautiously dealing with Father Monaghan's (Robin Williams) demand for Catholic decorum. Realizing the happy event could be threatened by biological mother Madonna's (Patricia Rae) strict Columbian religious views, Alejandro requests that his divorced adoptive parents, sober sculptor Don (Robert De Niro) and prissy Ellie (Diane Keaton), pretend their union is still alive, pushing out Don's longtime partner Bebe (Susan Sarandon), who watches the domestic fireworks as a caterer. Agreeing to the charade, Don and Ellie confront their past mistakes, while daughter Lyla (Katherine Heigl) deals with her own sour relationship and impending pregnancy, while virgin son Jared (Topher Grace) doggedly pursues Madonna's sex kitten kid, Nuria (Ana Ayora). Trying to enjoy a celebratory weekend, the family's dysfunction drowns any chance for bliss, with sins and shenanigans threatening to topple Missy and Alejandro's precious moment.

"The Big Wedding" is actually a remake of a 2006 French comedy, but let's not drag that poor film into this. The update is masterminded by Justin Zackham, whose previous credits include 2001's "Going Greek" and a screenplay for 2007's "The Bucket List." The helmer seems determined to extract all the unpleasantness out of the premise, attempting to manufacture a farcical rush of awful behavior in the name of irreverence. There's not a single likable character in the bunch here, just a series of angry, reckless cardboard cutouts spewing abysmal dialogue and missing lay-up comic beats by a country mile. It's a weird atmosphere of whiffing in "The Big Wedding," especially emerging from this cast of famous faces. Not terribly welcome faces, but famous nonetheless. Everyone is simply surviving the picture instead of challenging Zackham's dreadful ideas, leading to several nonsensical sequences and a heavy air of mental check-cashing, especially from De Niro, who plays a drunk and likely went method for the role.

The opening scene of "The Big Wedding" sets a tone of sluggishness and contamination, watching Zackham attempt a Farrelly Brothers-style scene to announce the picture's coming screwball content. There's also time spent with Missy's parents, Muffin (Christine Ebersole) and Barry (David Rasche), and, for some reason, the pair is written as racists, uncomfortable with their Snow White daughter marrying a "brown." Ug. "The Big Wedding" is also R-rated, presenting an audience probably settling in for a gentle feature about love with such highlights as cursing, hand-job jokes, Ellie discussing her nine-hour orgasms, and the sight of Lyla vomiting on Don. The ugliness extends to characterization, watching Don and Ellie return to sex during the first night of the ruse, while poor Bebe is shunned into a service role. Actually, Bebe is tortured in the script, cruelly forced to endure dismissal from Alejandro and deal with Don's cheating ways, making her arc tremendously uncomfortable to watch -- she's committed no crime, yet her punishment is severe, making this ghoulish family all the more repugnant.

Laughs never arrive as Zackham piles on the sitcom situations, failing to generate the snowballing tone he's straining for. Even worse, the writer/director expects the audience to sympathize with these clowns, as if they deserve a chance to bare their souls after an hour proving they don't have a heart. It's tired, easy Screenwriting 101 structure, registering all the more perverse in a movie that doesn't make any time to establish a genuine human presence. Who cares about this clan when all they do is disrespect one another for 85 glacial minutes.

"The Big Wedding" is a disaster, mangling a simple concept of matrimonial mischief by playing so aggressively nasty. It wastes the time of the actors and the audience. This is the point in the review where I whip out the critical cutes and write something like, "Just say 'I Don't' to this movie!" But seriously, just don't. Your wallet and the state of screen comedy and romance deserve better treatment.

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Diane Keaton, Topher Grace, Susan Sarandon
Director: Justin Zackham

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