MRR Review: "The Big Wedding"

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To the amusement of their adult children and friends, long divorced couple Don and Ellie Griffin (Robert De Niro & Diane Keaton) are once again forced to play the happy couple for the sake of their adopted son's wedding after his ultra conservative biological mother unexpectedly decides to fly halfway across the world to attend. With all of the wedding guests looking on, the Griffins are hilariously forced to confront their past, present and future - and hopefully avoid killing each other in the process. Also starring as part of the ensemble cast are Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Ben Barnes, Susan Sarandon & Robin Williams.
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MRR Review: "The Big Wedding"

-- Rating: R (sexual content, brief nudity, language)
Length: 89 minutes
Release Date: April 26, 2013
Directed by: Justin Zackham
Genre: Comedy

Missy (Amanda Seyfried) and Alejandro (Ben Barnes) are two people who are very much in love and want to get married. The problem is, both of them have one or more family members who are a little on the crazy side, which could cause problems on their big day. Eloping is absolutely out of the question, because they would hurt too many family members by running away to wed. Instead, they bravely decide to soldier on and try to have a nice intimate ceremony in "The Big Wedding."

Alejandro's biological mother Madonna (Patricia Rae) is very religious, so she insists on a Catholic ceremony, calling on Father Moinighan (Robin Williams) to officiate. Alejandro's adoptive parents, Don (Robert De Niro) and Ellie (Diane Keaton), are much more forgiving, but they are divorced, which is a sin in Madonna's eyes. When Don shows up with his longtime girlfriend Bebe (Susan Sarandon) in tow, Alejandro begs him to pretend to still be married to Ellie to appease Madonna. They reluctantly agree to the last-minute ruse, which relegates Bebe to the wait staff so she can stay and watch the ceremony undetected.

Meanwhile, Alejandro's sister Lyla (Katherine Heigl) questions her own romantic life as she ponders becoming a mother, and brother Jared (Topher Grace) ponders losing his virginity with Madonna's sexy daughter Nuria (Ana Ayora). It seems like everyone has something on their mind other than the wedding, which causes a lot of roadblocks as the lovebirds try to make it down the aisle. There is even drama on Missy's side of the family, as her parents are unhappy that their daughter is marrying a Latino, thumbing their noses at Alejandro and his mom. With so much unhappiness on what is supposed to be the happiest day of their lives, it is no surprise when Alejandro and Missy begin to question if they will ever get through the weekend, much less spend the rest of their lives together. Will love conquer all in the end, or will the tangled web the two families have weaved end up snaring the lovebirds before they can wed?

There was once a conventional piece of wisdom in Hollywood that said comedies had to be rated PG or PG-13 in order to make any money. The thought was that younger audiences who love comedies wouldn't be able to get in, which would affect the overall box office success of the film. Studio executives also felt that R-rated comedies had a reputation for nudity and raunch, which might turn some adults off as well. Then "The Hangover" became an unqualified phenomenon, and the old wisdom was tossed out the door. Since then, several R-rated comedies have been released, but most of them were aimed at men. "The Big Wedding" is aimed at men and women alike, mixing raunchy romp tropes with the heart of a romantic comedy.

The mix of genres found in the film make it all feel very fresh and unlike any other film with the word "wedding" in the title. Anyone who thinks "The Big Wedding" is for girls only will have that notion dismissed in the first ten minutes of the film, which finds the usually dignified De Niro caught with his pants down (literally) by Keaton. Though De Niro has done plenty of comedies before, most notably "Meet the Parents," he has usually played a character who mocks his formerly macho persona. In this film, he strays from his usual portrayal to play a drunk who is in serious need of some redemption, lest he lose the love and respect of those around him. It's fun to watch him let loose, especially when he is surrounded by such a talented cast.

The cast is a laundry list of fantastic actors taking a break from some of their more dramatic fare to have a good time and ham it up in "The Big Wedding." Sarandon makes a memorable turn as De Niro's frustrated partner who probably should have broken up with him years ago. Keaton is Sarandon's polar opposite, yet the two have an easy chemistry together in the scenes they share. Williams is a big bundle of manic energy as the priest who will officiate over the proceedings should the happy-but-frazzled couple ever walk down the aisle. The wedding in question may or may not happen, but the audience might not actually care. The real focus and gem of "The Big Wedding" isn't the ceremony but the madcap journey that comes before it.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars