Marital Breakdown

THE BIG WEDDING: 'a frothy and harmless confection that squanders the on-screen talent'

THE BIG WEDDING: 'a frothy and harmless confection that squanders the on-screen talent'

First published in What's On by

THE BIG WEDDING (15)

Comedy/Romance. Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Ben Barnes, Amanda Seyfried, Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace, Patricia Rae, Ana Ayora, Robin Williams. Director: Justin Zackham.

Based on the 2006 French farce Mon Frere Se Marie, The Big Wedding chronicles the trials and tribulations of a fractured family on the biggest day in one young man’s life.

Justin Zackham’s lacklustre English-language remake is laden with Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated talent with impeccable comedic credentials including Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl and Robin Williams.

It's an embarrassment of acting riches.

Alas, where it matters – plot, character development, hearty belly laughs – The Big Wedding leaves us short-changed.

Perhaps something was lost in translation but Zackham’s script lacks snappy dialogue and the aisles are crammed with broad stereotypes.

The rogue’s gallery includes a Catholic priest who abandons all hope for the souls of the bride- and groom-to-be because they won’t impose religion on their children (“Hell it is then!”), and a sex-starved twenty-something virgin who is saving himself for his own wedding night.

At the centre of the madness is Alejandro Griffin (Ben Barnes), the Colombian-born adopted son of Don (Robert De Niro) and Ellie (Diane Keaton), who is poised to say “I do” to his sweetheart, Missy O’Connor (Amanda Seyfried).

As the big day beckons, Alejandro has a huge favour to ask his adoptive parents, who are now divorced: he needs them to pretend that they are still married so that his biological mother, a devout Catholic called Madonna (Patricia Rae) who is flying in specially for the wedding, won’t be offended.

Don, who now lives with Bebe (Susan Sarandon), and Ellie reluctantly agree to go along with the charade, as do the couple’s grown-up children, Lyla (Katherine Heigl) and Jared (Topher Grace), who have their own relationship woes.

Once Madonna arrives at the celebrations with her sexually voracious daughter Nuria (Ana Ayora) in tow, one little white lie stacks atop another, right up to the point that family priest Father Monighan (Robin Williams) asks Alejandro and Missy to pledge themselves to each other before God.

Sure enough, the tower of fibs eventually topples over, compelling Madonna to liken her hosts’ antics to cheap soap opera: “You Americans are crazy. It’s like watching Telemundo!”

It’s a fair summation of The Big Wedding, a frothy and harmless confection that squanders the on-screen talent.

Keaton, De Niro and Sarandon are powerless to polish the dialogue into sparkling gems, while Heigl’s character embarks on an emotional rollercoaster that should have us choking back tears by the finale.

Even Williams is out of sorts as the holy man, who tells Don and Ellie, “Just because you’re divorced doesn’t mean you’re legally obliged to hate each other.”

Splashes of adult humour, mainly revolving around impromptu sexual acts, attempt to convince us that the Griffins are exciting, spontaneous people, full of passion and desire.

Like Madonna, we’re not convinced in the slightest.

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