Just about all the actors in “The Big Wedding” are severely typecast. Diane Keaton is a high-strung, divorced mother like in “Something’s Gotta Give,” Robert De Niro is the father of somebody getting married like in “Meet the Fockers,” Amanda Seyfried is a blushing bride like in “Mamma Mia,” Robin Williams is an eccentric minister like in “License to Wed,” Topher Grace is a deadpan, quick-witted nice guy like in “That ‘70s Show,” and Katherine Heigl is a needy single woman like in every movie she does. Even though the actors are in their comfort zones, not a single person feels natural in “The Big Wedding.” That’s probably because the film doesn’t understand its own characters or their motivations. Nobody behind the camera has any idea what they’re doing, resulting in one of the most awkward romantic comedies of recent memory.
Keaton and De Niro are a divorced couple that adopted a Columbian boy named Alejandro, who has grown up to be Ben Barnes. Now that Alejandro is marrying Seyfried’s Missy, his biological mother is coming to America for the wedding. The problem is that Alejandro’s devoutly Catholic mother doesn’t know that Keaton and De Niro have been broken up for years. For this ridiculous reason, Keaton and De Niro are forced to pretend that they’re still married, although De Niro is now with Susan Sarandon’s Bebe.
While this setup may be completely contrived and idiotic, there is potential for some very funny shenanigans. What’s truly shocking about “The Big Wedding” is that it never takes advantage of its premise. The whole fake marriage plot just sits there for a majority of the movie, never amounting to anything absurd, suspenseful, or funny. It’s like the filmmakers aren’t even trying to create comedic situations.
Here’s a prime example of why “The Big Wedding” doesn’t work. There’s one scene where Keaton and De Niro are getting ready for bed, having a trivial conversation. In the next scene, they’re having sex. What prompted this action? Director/Writer Justin Zackham, who adapted this material from a French film, skips the build up and jumps right to the punch line. His script doesn’t take the time to develop any of its jokes, or characters for that matter. Because of this, the audience doesn’t buy a single relationship in this whole movie.
For the most part, “The Big Wedding” is reliant on bottom of the barrel gags to carry the story. Such gags include De Niro falling into a swimming pool, the family settling down to dinner as it starts to rain, and Robin Williams falling into a lake. Newsflash, seeing people get wet isn’t funny! “America’s Funniest Home Videos” has higher standards than that. That fact that Zackham works in not one, but three, wet gags is an all-time low.
The poster makes “The Big Wedding” out to be a warm, family friendly comedy. The film is actually rated R for some profanity and brief nudity. The foul language is particularly unnecessary, coming off as a desperate attempt to make the lines sound funnier. There’s an especially unwarranted scene in which De Niro uses the C-word to describe Keaton. We’re honestly supposed to like this guy?
As poorly put together as “The Big Wedding” is, maybe it’s not entirely Zackham’s fault. Maybe the studio just brutally edited the film. That would explain why every character feels underdeveloped, key scenes appear to be missing, and why the running time is under 90 minutes. Whether it’s a failure on a script level or an editing level, one thing is for certain. The final product is a mess on every level.
• Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past seven years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.