By Dan Metcalf
Clipper Film Correspondent
The Big Wedding (Lionsgate)
Rated R for language, sexual content and brief nudity.
Starring Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Diane Keaton, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Ben Barnes, Christine Ebersole, David Rasche, Patricia Rae, Ana Ayora.
Written by Justin Zackham, based on the film "Mon frère se marie" by Jean-Stéphane Bron and Karine Sudan.
Directed by Justin Zackham.
Romantic comedies are beginning to get a little tedious. Most of them are becoming indistinguishable, following the same basic formula. Despite the predictable outcomes, some offer a few laughs and romance, which can make them bearable. Since most American “rom-coms” have run an all-too-familiar course, producers often look to successful movies from other countries, looting their scripts for fresh ideas. The Big Wedding is one of those American rip-offs, taking its plot from "Mon frère se marie" (2006), a Swiss/French film based on a dysfunctional family dealing with the marriage of an adopted son.
Robert De Niro stars as Don, a successful, divorced artist living in an upscale Connecticut coastal mansion. Don's longtime companion Bebe (Susan Sarandon) lives in the home with him, as his ex-wife Ellie (Diane Keaton) arrives just in time for the wedding of Alejandro (Ben Barnes), their adopted son from Colombia. Alejandro is about to marry Missy (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of Barry (David Rasche) and Muffin (Christine Ebersole). Also joining the wedding party are Don and Ellie's two birth children Lyla (Katherine Heigl), an attorney going through marital troubles and Jared (Topher Grace), a doctor who saving his virginity for marriage. Alejandro's biological mother Madonna (Patricia Rae) and sister Nuria (Ana Ayora) have traveled from Colombia to attend the wedding as well (coming from one of those “open adoptions”). Planning to officiate the ceremony is Father Moinighan (Robin Williams).
The story is fairly simple. Don loves Bebe, but doesn't want to re-marry. Bebe wants to marry Don. Alejandro has been lying to his birth mother about Don and Ellie, telling her that they are devout Catholics, and still married. Alejandro convinces them to pretend they are still together, which causes Bebe to move out for the weekend (even though she will be catering the wedding at the family home). Complicating things even more are the attraction between the virginal Jared and the promiscuous Nuria, Lyla's marital troubles, and a rekindling of the romance between Don and Ellie.
As the wedding day arrives, the truth about everyone's deceptions are made bare, as well as everyone's passions, resulting in a huge, chaotic farce.
The Big Wedding is rarely funny or romantic (a real problem for a romantic comedy), despite some worthy performances from the group of veteran actors (De Niro, Sarandon, Keaton). Most of the humor relies on vulgar gags and implausible reactions to the obvious set up in the story.
It seems the pillaging of the foreign film didn't really help avoid the predictability of The Big Wedding's outcome, nor provide a movie that is very distinguishable from other “wedding” comedies. It's sort of like getting too many toasters as wedding gifts - you are compelled to return most of them, and The Big Wedding is one you'll want to return - or at the very least forget in a few days.
My best advice is to wait for The Big Wedding as a rental, or avoid it all together. You'll thank me if you do.