A ceremony of errors in ‘The Big Wedding’
BY RICHARD ROEPER SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST April 25, 2013 10:32AM
Bebe (Susan Sarandon, left), Father Moinighan (Robin Williams, center) and Don (Robert De Niro, right) in THE BIG WEDDING. Photo credit: Barry Wetcher
‘THE BIG WEDDING’ ★★
Don Robert De Niro
Ellie Diane Keaton
Lyla Katherine Heigl
Missy Amanda Seyfried
Jared Topher Grace
Bebe Susan Sarandon
Fr. Moinighan Robin Williams
Lionsgate presents a film written and directed by Justin Zackham. Running time: 90 minutes. Rated R (for language, sexual content, and brief nudity). Opening Friday at local theaters.
Updated: May 28, 2013 6:38PM
They handed out slices of cake before the screening of “The Big Wedding,” so everyone was properly sugared-up to experience 90 minutes of artificial sweetener laced with a surprising amount of spicy content.
If only there had been similar tie-ins before the screenings of the other movies opening this week.
Steroid shots prior to “Pain & Gain”!
Fake identity kits before you see “Arthur Newman”!
OK, maybe not.
Imagine how thrilled director-screenwriter Justin Zackham must have been when his project attracted four Academy Award winners — Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Robin Williams and Susan Sarandon — along with Topher Grace, Amanda Seyfried and Katherine Heigl. That’s a cast the late Robert Altman could have put to good use.
Alas, Mr. Zackham, though perfectly competent as a director and quite capable of writing some strong dialogue, is no Robert Altman, who gave us “A Wedding,” still the standard for this subgenre. (Though to be fair, who is?)
Over the last decade-plus, it seems as if nearly every movie with Diane Keaton features a scene in which her character shows up at a multimillion-dollar country home, toting luggage that costs as much as a compact car. And so it goes in “The Big Wedding,” with Keaton’s Ellie arriving at the estate where she once lived with her sculptor husband Don (De Niro) and their three children, until Don left Ellie for her former best friend Bebe (Susan Sarandon).
Ellie has returned for the wedding of their adopted son, Alejandro (Ben Barnes), who was born in Colombia. Alejandro is marrying Missy (Amanda Seyfried), whose country-clubbing parents are horrified their daughter is marrying Alejandro. Yes, because a Harvard grad who looks like a catalog model, speaks five languages and is devoted to your daughter would be SUCH a nightmare.
We also meet:
♦ Alejandro’s older siblings. Lyla (Katherine Heigl) is bitterly estranged from her father and heartbroken because she can’t have children. Oh, and her boyfriend just moved out. Jared (Topher Grace) is a doctor. He’s about to turn 30 and is still a virgin.
♦ Alejandro’s biological mother, Madonna (Patricia Rae), who has left Colombia for the first time to attend her son’s wedding. Also along for the trip is Alejandro’s hot little sister, Nuria (Ana Ayora), who isn’t in the States for 24 hours before she’s involved in the most gratuitous nude scene in recent motion picture history.
♦ Father Moinighan (Robin Williams), a friend of Don’s from AA. In some scenes the good father is a cartoonish caricature. Later in the film, he acquires wisdom and depth. Weird.
Most of the comedic hijinks and dramatic developments are put into motion when Alejandro asks his parents to pretend they’re still together because his biological mother believes divorce is an unforgivable sin.
OK, Alejandro. Your mother gave you up for adoption 20 years ago because she wanted you to have a better life, and that seems to have worked out pretty well, so why not just tell her the truth? Man up!
For such a (mostly) lighthearted ensemble romp, “The Big Wedding” easily earns its R rating, what with Ayora’s nude scene, and dialogue that gets pretty nasty at times. (If Robert De Niro’s using the c-word in a film, I’m assuming it’s going to be in a movie with the Rolling Stones on the soundtrack and gangsters’ blood spilling onto checkered tablecloths.)
There’s not a bad performance in this movie. De Niro, Keaton and Sarandon are particularly good, what a surprise.
But it feels as if all the guests at “The Big Wedding” are wearing ID tags telling us their one Plot Point. “I’m a 30-year-old male virgin.” “I can’t get pregnant.” “I’m the obligatory sultry foreign hottie. Make love to me!” “I’m the father who did the best I could, despite my artistic narcissism.”
I took a pass on the cake because I’m a Pie Guy. Of course, I’ll always have a slice of cake when I’m at a wedding, but it’s usually just too formulaic and contains too many ingredients that are just OK, not great.