out of Five
Running time: 90
Disappointing, poorly conceived comedy that's both emotionally unconvincing and depressingly low on laughs, though the performances ensure that it remains watchable.
What's it all about?
Directed by Justin Zackham (who adapted the screenplay from the French film Mon frère se marie), The Big Wedding stars Robert De Niro and Susan Sarandon as long time couple Don and Bebe, who are preparing for the wedding of Don's adopted son Alejandro (Ben Barnes) to Missy (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of old family friends Barry and Muffin (David Rasche and Christine Ebersole). However, when Alejandro's devoutly religious Columbian birth mother Madonna (Patricia Rae) decides to attend the wedding, Alejandro asks Don to pretend he's still married to his ex-wife Ellie (Diane Keaton), since he's never actually told her that they got divorced.
Meanwhile, Don and Ellie's other two grown-up children have problems of their own: Lyla (Katherine Heigl) has fallen out with her husband over her inability to conceive, while twenty-something virgin Jared (Topher Grace) falls for Alejandro's sexy biological sister Nuria (Ana Ayora) when she arrives with Madonna.
The performances are decent enough, particularly De Niro, who sparks decent chemistry with both Sarandon and Keaton, while there's strong comic support from both Grace and Ayora. That said, Heigl and Seyfried are almost completely wasted as Lyla and Missy and the less said about Robin Williams' appearance as a comedy priest, the better (thankfully, he's only in a couple of scenes).
The film's biggest problem is that it simply isn't frantic or engaging enough for the farcical elements to work properly; there's almost nothing in the script to suggest why anyone should care if Alejandro's mother finds out about the divorce, for example, especially as the entire set-up upsets Bebe, who seems much more important. Similarly, it's hard to believe Topher Grace's character would still be a virgin (he's a doctor and the film establishes that he gets hit on all the time) and the film raises several other irritating questions, such as why Alejandro was given up for adoption in the first place (to say nothing of why the filmmakers cast Ben Barnes as a Columbian).
Most of the above would be forgivable if the film was actually funny, but it rarely manages to raise anything resembling a decent chuckle and relies entirely on its respected cast doing rude things for shock-induced laughs (e.g. Keaton catching De Niro giving Sarandon cunnilingus, De Niro calling Keaton the c-word). Similarly, several of the plot revelations (particularly those relating to Rasche and Ebersole's characters) just don't ring true and end up feeling painfully contrived.
The Big Wedding is a disappointing comedy that struggles to find the right tone, thanks to a poorly thought out script and misjudged direction, though the performances just about rescue it from one star ignominy.