Directed by: Justin Zachham
Premise: A remake of the French film Mon frère se marie. An American family reunites for the marriage of their adopted Columbian son (Ben Barnes). The son has maintained a relationship with his biological family and his birth mother is a strict Catholic who does not believe in divorce, which the adoptive parents are. In an effort to avoid a scene, the son convinces his divorced parents to pretend to be married.
What Works: The Big Wedding is a film that has potentially compelling narrative pieces scattered throughout it and to their credit the actors do as good a job as they can with this material. Of the various narrative strands is a budding romance between the groom’s adoptive brother (Topher Grace) and the groom’s biological sister (Ana Ayora). He is a thirty year-old virgin while she is a sexually adventurous free spirit and their subplot could have been a satisfying movie in its own right, were it in better hands.
What Doesn’t: The Big Wedding is a bewildering experience and not in a good way. How Hollywood executives approved this script and how it attracted actors the likes of Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Topher Grace, and Amanda Seyfried boggles the mind. This script is so poorly written as to be incoherent. It has a ton of narrative strands but none of them are done well or are even complete. The characters of this movie constantly make stupid and unmotivated decisions that are worsened by the filmmakers’ inability to follow through. Conflicts and desires are introduced and then discarded, sometimes within the same scene, and none of the characters in the movie act in a way that is recognizable as human behavior. Robert De Niro’s character is a recovered alcoholic who craves a drink but when he finally falls off the wagon he is drunk for exactly one scene. Topher Grace’s character is a man who has preserved his virginity into his thirties in anticipation of marriage but upon meeting the woman played by Ana Ayora he cannot wait to get down. The lousy plotting and inconsistent characters are indicative of the whole picture. The Big Wedding is a movie made in bad faith and the filmmakers opt for the lowest, dumbest, and laziest road at every opportunity. Writer and director Justin Zachham seems to think he is making a family comedy like Father of the Bride or Meet the Parents but he is really making a sex romp like Wedding Crashers or American Pie but with none of the humor or memorable characters of those films. That divergence between what The Big Wedding is and what the filmmakers desire it to be escalates as the movie introduces random story elements, including infidelity and insinuations of incest, all of which are laughed off like a misunderstanding on a television sitcom. This disingenuousness is also found in the film’s handing of religion. The central conflict of The Big Wedding arises out of Catholic beliefs regarding divorce. It is fine for filmmakers to criticize religion or to make religious dogma the basis for a conflict but the crew of The Big Wedding has created a paper tiger that has nothing to do with reality. It’s a cheap shot but it is unsurprising given the laziness of the rest of the film. The Big Wedding is also problematic in its depiction of Hispanic women. The false dichotomy of the virgin-whore complex is nothing new in Hollywood movies but rarely is it as barefaced as it is in the characterization of the groom’s birth mother and her daughter.
Bottom Line: The Big Wedding is a stupid, lazy, and frequently ugly movie. This is the kind of film whose very existence is troubling because it means that someone in the echelons of Hollywood thought it was worth making.
Episode: #439 (May 19, 2013)