Monday, March 21, 2011

Wedding Crashers Movie Review

This review was written at the time of the film's 2005 release, but not published until now.


It is ostensibly Vince Vaughn’s performance that drives the hard laughs in Wedding Crashers. Although it is otherwise a fun and often hysterical movie, Vaughn’s role as the foil to Owen Wilson’s more or less straight man provides the most brevity. His rapid-fire monologues are among the funniest moments, as when he pours the truth out to a priest over a glass of scotch or when explaining to his secretary why he has no patience for the world of dating.

The movie introduces us to Jeremy and John (Vaughn and Wilson, respectively) as divorce mediators who have great chemistry between them to the point that they are able to lull a bickering soon-to-be-divorced couple into submission and compromise. The chemistry between the two actors, who have worked together in the past but never shared top billing, is palpable. We believe that Jeremy and John are good friends.

 If you’ve seen the ads then you know the premise: two overgrown children make it a habit to pose as guests at weddings so they can meet and bed beautiful, single women who are overcome with the emotion of the wedding experience. The plot gets moving when Jeremy convinces John to go with him on the ultimate crash. They devise a strategy to insinuate themselves into the lavish wedding of the daughter of the Secretary of the Treasury (Christopher Walken).

It doesn’t take them long to find their respective targets. Jeremy eyes Secretary Cleary’s youngest daughter, Gloria (Isla Fisher), while John becomes infatuated with his middle daughter, Claire (Rachel McAdams). John discovers that Claire has a boyfriend, Sack (Bradley Cooper), and Jeremy can’t shake Claire after deflowering her on the beach. Soon they are invited to the Cleary home on Chesapeake Bay. John’s quest is no longer about sex, but about trying to win the girl, so he convinces Jeremy to come along and endure the lunatic “stage-5 clinger” (a virgin who has fallen in love).

Jeremy’s role is to suffer the torture of being sapped of all energy by the now sex-crazed Gloria while John tries to get some alone time with Claire away from Sack who, in true clichĂ© fashion, is a tool and is not the one for the lovely Claire. McAdams, enchanting in last year’s The Notebook, has beauty and grace to light up a room making it very easy to hope that the hero wins her in the end. Of course the film employs the necessary conventions of the two impostors being outed in front of the family; rejection by the girls; a sequence of heartbreak and loss followed by a public apology and final catharsis.

If the film has one gaping flaw it is that the pace is perfect, moving along without lagging until one scene that should have been left on the cutting room floor. In a moment of desperation John visits with Chaz Reingold, his and Jeremy’s inspiration and predecessor in crashing weddings. The casting of Will Ferrell in the part is meant to be a surprise and it would work well if they hired an actor who didn’t try so hard to be noticed. The scene is out of place and fails to capture the same tone as the rest of the film. The comedy doesn’t flow naturally and Ferrell expends too much energy asking for the laughs. Thinking about it afterward, I realized the whole scene could have been left out and would only have made the film better if it had been.

The amazing feat is that Wedding Crashers succeeds in spite of its conventional plotting. It does this in several ways. The first is that the script by Steve Faber and Bob Fisher is not only sharp-witted where it needs to be, but also nails the natural feel of dialogue in the more serious, romantic scenes. In addition to the aforementioned scene-stealing performance of Vince Vaughan, Walken delivers a spot-on performance. Whereas in the past he has had a (ahem) mild flare for overacting, here he strikes the right chord between the menace of a protective father who doesn’t quite trust that Jeremy isn’t using Gloria to add another “notch to his belt” and an understanding father who wants his daughters to be happy.

Too many comedy writers make the mistake of thinking that it’s enough to pepper a script with jokes and funny scenarios. Just as there needs to be an emotional connection between the audience and characters for there to be empathy in dramatic situations, audiences can only laugh under the same circumstances. That is an important point that I believe Faber and Fisher both understand. We should look forward to their next project.

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