The Big Wedding

Directed by: Justin Zackham

Starring:  Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Katherine Heigl, and Robin Williams

Color me disappointed.  When I go into a film with Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams and Diane Keaton, I have certain expectations.  Add in Topher Grace, and I automatically expect wit and character.  But I should have known that the Katherine Heigl romantic comedy curse would continue.  I cannot think of a single rom-com that Heigl has been a part of that rose to the level of films by Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, or even Reese Witherspoon. Unfortunately, The Big Wedding does not end her streak of bad films.  However, the blame does not rest on Heigl's shoulders, but on an uninspired story.

In The Big Wedding, Ellie Griffin (Keaton) is returning home ten years after her divorce from Don (De Niro).  The Griffins are coming together to celebrate the marriage of Don and Ellie’s adopted son Alejandro (Ben Barnes) and his fiancée Missy (Amanda Seyfried).  Don has since moved on and has been living with his wife’s “best friend” Bebe (Susan Sarandon).  The Griffins two other adult children are also celebrating the nuptials: Lyla (Heigl), a married lawyer recently separated from her husband and Jared (Topher Grace), a virgin doctor who is weary of saving himself for marriage.

As the families come together, dysfunction rears its ugly head.  Alejandro’s biological Colombian mother and sister are flying to America for the wedding.  However, Alejandro’s mother is a strict Catholic and does not believe in divorce.  He has never shared with his biological mother that the Griffins are divorced, and fears such a revelation would ruin the entire wedding.  So he asks Don and Ellie to pretend to be married for the weekend of the wedding.  This complicates Don’s relationship with Bebe and makes for an awkward rehearsal dinner.  To compound matters, Missy’s parents Muffin (Christine Ebersole) and Barry (David Rasche) are overtly racist.  Muff and Barr are concerned about their daughter marrying someone of Latino origin.  They do not want to have beige grandchildren, do not want to be seen with the Colombians in public and confuse Venice for Columbia.  As the wedding approaches, insanity ensues.

The Big Wedding is an average, occasionally funny comedy.  Robin Williams is perfect as Father Monighan and delivers an understated performance that brings some humor to the film.  Bobby D also plays the part of an artistic douchebag well, but this is a far cry from his recent Oscar nominated performance in Silver Linings Playbook.  Sarandon and Keaton have good chemistry as old friends who fell for the same man. 

The Big Wedding, however, is surprisingly juvenile and somewhat outdated.  We have seen the “pretend marriage to fool the prospective in-laws” bit, only executed more skillfully in films like The Birdcage.  Sex before marriage, homosexuality, and interracial marriage are not cause for alarm.  I’m not saying we’ve reached the mountaintop on social issues, but the scandal in this film just seems dated.  Moreover, in The Big Wedding, the writers confuse sex gags/talk with humor. During the film, Bobby D and Susan Sarandon debate the use of the word “cunnilingus” before they try to engage in the activity; a 29 year old-virgin gets a hand job at the dinner table; Keaton discusses a 9-hour orgasm; etc.  Sex jokes do not make a film edgy—the jokes and gags need to actually be funny.  Plot, witty dialogue and rich characters are what drive a successful romantic comedy.  As a whole, The Big Wedding went for the cheap pop, rather than developing a more interesting story.  As a result, the comedy came across as superficial.

The film also loses points for casting Barnes as a Colombian immigrant.  He is a perfectly fine actor.  But when I first saw him, I thought to myself, “I didn’t know Prince Caspian was Hispanic.”  It troubled me so much that I googled the Chronicles of Narnia actor and it appears that he is of British origin, with Jewish and South African roots. I am all for casting characters across a broad spectrum in films.  However, I think casting a British actor in a Latin American role where his character’s “otherness” is a running thread throughout the film was a mistake.  In The Big Wedding, Prince Caspian passes for diversity. Prince Caspian sends Muffin and Barry rushing for the smelling salts because their princess is marrying someone “beige.”  Prince Caspian? Really? For me, this choice underscores that the filmmakers are a bit out of touch. 

The Big Wedding earns a 0.09% rating.  It’s not worth the money to see it in theaters, but if you stumble across it on cable, have a Cosmo while you watch.