Review

‘The Big Wedding’ is a big disappointment

Philadelphia InquirerApril 25, 2013 

From left: Christine Ebersole, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Ana Ayora, Patricia Rae and Katherine Heigl in "The Big Wedding."

BARRY WETCHER

  • The Big Wedding

    C-

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

    Director: Justin Zackham

    Website: thebigweddingmovie.com

    Length: 1 hour, 29 minutes

    Rating: R (sex, nudity, profanity, adult themes)

    Theaters

    Raleigh: Six Forks, North Hills, Grande, Brier Creek, Carmike. Apex: Beaver Creek. Cary: Crossroads. Chapel Hill: Lumina, Timberlyne. Durham: Southpoint, Wynnsong. Garner: White Oak. Morrisville: Park Place. Smithfield: Smithfield.

“Marriage is like a phone call late at night,” Robert De Niro says, in dulcet voice-over mode, at the outset of “The Big Wedding.” “First comes the ring, and then you wake up.”

Rim shot, please.

Except in Justin Zackham’s sedated farce, there are no rim shots. The jokes are just splayed out there, accompanied by the strums of a guitar on the soundtrack.

Adapted from a 2006 French comedy, and boasting a cross-generational cast of daunting and not-so daunting stature, “The Big Wedding” throws up a messy web of relationships, a tangle of siblings and spouses, lovers and lunatics, intersecting in illicit and illogical ways.

In order to pull off this sort of business, the pace should be breakneck, there shouldn’t be an extra second to contemplate the moral lapses and betrayals. Alas, “The Big Wedding,” which inches along like a stoned snail, gives us all the time in the world.

Don and Ellie Griffin (De Niro and Diane Keaton) are a long-divorced couple whose adopted son, Alejandro (Ben Barnes), is about to be married to Amanda Seyfried’s Missy. Don, a sculptor (and an apparently successful one: his house comes with a pool and overlooks a lake), lives with Bebe (Susan Sarandon), who was once Ellie’s best friend.

Although Don and Bebe aren’t married, she is like a loving stepmom to Don and Ellie’s kids – Jared (Topher Grace), a closing-in-on-30 doctor who’s still a virgin; Lyla (Kathryn Heigl), a brooder who has just broken up with her beau; and Alejandro, who originally hailed from Columbia, and who has invited his biological mother (Patricia Rae) to the wedding.

Alejandro fears that she is too conservative and devout a woman to accept that his adoptive parents have divorced, so he convinces them to act as though they’re still together. Which leaves Bebe out in the cold – although not out of the picture, since her company is catering the wedding.

Let’s see, who’s left? There is Nuria (Ana Ayora), Alejandro’s frisky and fetching biological sister, who has accompanied her mom from South America. She takes one look at Jared, who is technically, if not genetically, her brother, and offers to deflower the guy. And there are Don and Ellie, who find themselves sharing a bed and, what do you know, still sharing a passion for one another. And then there are Missy’s impossibly square (we think) parents, played by Christine Ebersole and David Rasche. And Robin Williams, as Father Moinighan, the Catholic priest who will preside over the ceremony.

Ensemble comedy overload!

Do you think many of the film’s participants will wind up falling into the pool or the lake? Or both? And if you do, do you think they’ll be fully dressed? Just know that Ayora (of course!) prefers skinny-dipping.

As the randy, philandering patriarch, De Niro gets punched around more times than Jake LaMotta. Keaton brings her natural comedic talents to the proceedings, and Sarandon acquits herself with saucy flair.

No one is bad in “The Big Wedding, but no one is remotely believable, either. Late in the game, Alejandro’s Columbian mother cracks wise that all of this is like some crazy telenovelaplot, and it is. The relationships are mapped out without regard to plausibility or common sense, and certainly without consideration for emotional truth.

Which is all fine and good in a screwball romp. If only “The Big Wedding” played like one.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service