The Big Wedding (a film review by Frank Ochieng).

One might want to get a quickie divorce from the annoying and convoluted comedy ‘The Big Wedding’ and try and see if the reception party is worth the wait afterwards. Needlessly tired, tacky and aimlessly foolish, the nonsensical narrative strives to pull together a dysfunctional bunch and hope that the familial farce holds its own. The conventional gimmick of stuffing a who’s who of noteworthy screen veterans (with four featured Oscar winners to boot) and a selection of young Hollywood hotshots into this nuptials nightmare seem far-fetched and pandering. In an effort to create its lackluster lunacy, ‘The Big Wedding’ feels relentlessly futile, bloated and strained. Vowing ‘I do’ to this wedding washout is the equivalent of being intentionally snapped in the eye with the bride’s garter.

‘The Big Wedding’ follows in the recent moviemaking trend of cramming Tinseltown notable names in a theme-driven romantic romp and hoping that the contrived results gel with the audience’s acceptance of such a staged concoction. Tedious ditties such as ‘Valentine’s Day’ and ‘New Year’s Eve’ (cross your fingers that ‘Secretary’s Day’ skips your local movie theatre and never comes into fruition) is what has inspired potential copycats such as ‘The Big Wedding’ to exhaust this flimsy congregate-the-movie stars-in-bouncy-romantic romps genre.

Stimulated by lazy antics of sex jokes, assorted vulgarities and other naughty nuances, ‘The Big Wedding’ wants to rejoice in the obviousness of family-oriented frustrations and generate a grand wink at its own obnoxiousness. Writer-director Justin Zackham (he scripted ‘The Bucket List’) basically assembles his celebrated cast in a series of embarrassingly breezy and banal shtick without much payoff. Drunken stupors, swimming pool pratfalls, random face slaps, foot-kissing, awkwardly comical oral stimulating…the so-called riotous tidbits are poured on ‘The Big Wedding’ with all the spontaneous flare of an annulment document.

‘The Big Wedding’ is based on the Jean-Stephane Bron’s mid-2000’s French comedy ‘Mon frère se marie’. The story paints a sordid picture of the Griffin clan — particularly Don (Robert DeNiro) and his ex-wife Ellie (Diane Keaton) whose combative barbs are still toxic years after their divorce. Their adopted Columbian son Alejandro (Ben Barnes) is about to wed his lovely bride-to-be Missy (Amanda Seyfried) at the New England-based family compound. There is, however, a major stipulation at hand. Both Don and Ellie must tolerate each other and play nice for the sake of Alejandro’s wedding ceremony. Furthermore, they have to pass themselves off as a still happily married couple — a clumsy façade that can only predictably result in the madcap marital shenanigans that this lame laugher has built its rancid premise on with cheap hedonism.

Despite Don’s continued festering hate for his ex-spouse, he has taken comfort in carnally cavorting with Ellie’s former best friend Bebe (Susan Sarandon). Bebe does want more from Don in terms of commitment but she instead settles for the hot-pants routine of pleasuring Don anywhere and anytime at a moment’s notice. The big wedding will also bring the Griffins’ other offspring to reunite at the ceremony.

Bitter daughter Lyla (Katherine Heigl) holds utter resentment towards her father Don and has a creepy aversion to infants. She holds a secret that reinforces her current nasty moodiness — she is facing a divorce and does not want to share this revelation with her parents. As for the Griffins’ physician son Jared (Topher Grace), he is a walking poster child for celibacy but cannot resist his urges for Latina women. Conveniently, Jared cannot seem to shake his attraction for the desirable Nuria (Ana Ayona), the birth sister of his soon-to-be-married adopted brother Alejandro.

Also, Alejandro’s wound-up birth mother Madonna (Patricia Rae) is slated to fly into the country from Columbia as she witnesses him exchanging vows with Missy. Alejandro fears the thought of his non-English speaking natural mother discovering that his adoptive American parents are no longer a loving and united item. After all, Madonna is a staunch Catholic and it would be pure blasphemy if she knew the divorce status of the Griffins. Of course, he constantly wonders if his feuding folks can keep up the charade of the phony marital bliss for this one very important weekend. Naturally, we all know the answer to this sentiment, correct?

In the meanwhile, Alejandro and Missy must contend with the pre-marital counseling sessions of Father Moinighan (Robin Williams instinctively channeling his recycled reverend persona from ‘License To Wed’). Father Moinighan is assured of two things that will make for his self-prescribed consistency: his devout Catholicism and a knack for ready-made sarcasm.

Contaminated with legless laughs, cringe-worthy stereotyping, frolicking and tossed around F-bombs, ‘The Big Wedding’ is a jumbled mess that shamelessly struts around in its fetid frivolity. The unimaginative raunchiness never propels ‘Wedding’ beyond the simplistic showcasing of a desperate communal comedy craving some sensationalistic attention-getting chuckles.

It is quite inexplicable how the great DeNiro has reduced himself to toil in mindless mockery such as this vacuous vehicle. This is a low grade and misplaced ‘Meet The Parents’ knock-off and familiarised territory for the ubiquitous DeNiro. How shocking that the venerable presence of sexy and sensible mature sirens such as Sarandon and Keaton have signed on the dotted line to partake in this elaborate crude skit that has all the tangy taste of a stale wedding cake from 1985. The young guns in this faceless and flippant fable — Barnes, Grace and Seyfried — probably would have had a better time being slaughtered in a generic horror flick then meeting this feeble fate in ‘Wedding’  and why is British product Ben Barnes playing a South American anyway? It is probably because the pool of genuine article Latin-bred male actors felt that dignity held little more weight than the tainted dinero offered to appear in this wine-toasting junk.

Trivial, meandering and mean-spirited, ‘The Big Wedding’ ironically serves as an instant funeral for the camera-mugging cohorts saddled in this incoherent and mindless marriage-in-the-making mishap.

The Big Wedding (2013)

Lionsgate Films

1 hr. 28 mins.

Starring: Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Robin Williams, Patricia Rae and Ben Barnes

Directed by: Justin Zackham

MPAA Rating: R

Genre: Comedy

Critic’s rating: * star (out of 4 stars).

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