The Big Wedding
dir-scr Justin Zackham
prd Anthony Katagas, Clay Pecorin, Richard Salvatore, Harry J Ufland, Justin Zackham
with Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace, Ben Barnes, Amanda Seyfried, Patricia Rae, Ana Ayora, Robin Williams, Christine Ebersole, David Rasche
release US 26.Apr.13, UK 31.May.13
13/US Lionsgate 1h30
The Big Wedding
The exes: De Niro and Keaton

sarandon heigl grace
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Big Wedding A contrived farcical plot very nearly sinks this family comedy. Fortunately, the actors play it relatively straight, avoiding the temptation to camp up the hilarity. As a result, each character's storyline has moments of darkness that inject some resonant emotion and jagged humour.

Don (De Niro) and his long-time girlfriend Bebe (Sarandon) are preparing for the wedding of Don's youngest son Alejandro (Barnes) to Missy (Seyfried), daughter of old family friends (Ebersole and Rache). But Alejandro's birth mother (Rae) is attending from Colombia and has old-fashioned views of marriage, so he asks Don to pretend that she's still married to ex-wife Ellie (Keaton). Meanwhile, Don and Ellie's other two children are on hand: Lyla (Heigl) is going through her own marriage crisis, while Jared (Grace) has the hots for Alejandro's biological sister (Ayora).

Yes the entanglements are ludicrous, and they get increasingly knotted, as if these people have never known anyone beyond this small circle of family and friends. And yet they don't really know each other either. But the the script (based on the 2006 French comedy Mon Frere Se Marié) is more interested in creating crazy confrontations and wacky humiliations. None of this escalates to excruciating Meet the Parents levels, but at least it's not as corny as Death at a Funeral.

It helps to have terrific actors on hand who are fearless in where they take their characters, because the script has some extreme twists. De Niro is relaxed and believably ramshackle as a sculptor with self-control issues; his relationships with Sarandon and Keaton spark with very different kinds of chemistry. Barnes adds likability as the adopted son who loves everyone and is loved in return, although he struggles to cope with everyone's idiotic behaviour.

On the other hand, Heigl and Grace are fairly one-note characters, while Seyfried barely registers. And Williams' parish priest merely dishes out sardonic Catholic guilt. At least there are some serious issues gurgling throughout the film, from the fallout of infidelity to the way love and respect are what make a family, rather than blood. But writer-director Zackham never properly develops these themes, leaving them hanging in the air for a smiley, only sometimes spiky farce. But it occasionally makes us smile too.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality .16.Apr13

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