Directed by: Justin Zachham
Starring: Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace
It may not have been to everyone’s taste but Will Gluck’s 2011 hit Friends With Benefits made some accurate comments about romantic comedies. In it, Justin Timberlake & Mila Kunis observed how the majority of Rom-Coms use music to tell you how to feel, conclude with big speeches & bigger kisses, and then use an “ambiguously upbeat pop song” to “try and convince you, you had a great time” watching the film. If ever there was a film that adheres to this over-familiar structure, it’s The Big Wedding.
The titular wedding is that of Missy and Alex (Alejandro); Missy’s parents are typical high-class American morons, worried they’re going to end up with “brown” grandchildren. Alex is the adopted son of the now divorced Don and Ellie. When Alex’s biological (and Catholic) mother visits from Columbia, Ellie and Don are forced to pretend they are still wedded in order to keep Alex’s very traditional mother happy. Don and Ellie reluctantly agree, much to dismay of Don’s girlfriend Bebe. On top of the convoluted main narrative we have Alex’s two siblings, both of whom have their own problems; brother Jared is questioning his decision to remain a virgin until he finds true love, while sister Lyla is struggling with a failing marriage and pregnancy issues.
Zackham’s script is nothing short of lazy. He seems to be content with stringing together (mostly) lazy one-liners, building to a moment of situational comedy that you guessed 10 minutes ago; generally at the expense of Robert De Niro, who hasn’t taken this many hits since Goodfellas. The most wasted talent is Robin Williams though, who seems to have only been included so that Zackham could say ‘LOOK!! It even has Robin Williams’ in the trailer. That the closest he gets to a laugh is when he wears a ridiculous dressing gown is a reflection on just how unfunny the script is.
It’s a shame, as the cast clearly tries to make it work. The central conflict between De Niro’s Don, Diane Keaton’s Ellie and Susan Sarandon’s Bebe is the films strongest element and there is no escaping to smile you get watching the 3 of them together on the screen. The chemistry between the actors is what elevates the film, whether it’s between the lead 3 above, or between the co-stars; the sibling relationship between Katharine Heigl and Topher Grace creates some laughs early on. Ironically, the only relationship that’s hard to invest in is the marital one we’re meant to be celebrating. It isn’t the fault of either Amanda Seyfried or Ben Barnes but once again of Zackham’s script, which never seems interested enough to get to know the (essentially) central couple.
Any work the cast does to make you laugh (and it must be said that the film isn’t totally devoid of giggles) is ruined during the finale, which contains (you guessed it) big speeches & bigger kisses. The revelations border on ridiculous and that the film manages to end with everyone smiling makes you feel frustrated more than it does anything else. Fear not though, the film closes with a Michael Bublé number, so you leave thinking you’ve had a good time… but you probably didn’t.