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"THE BIG WEDDING"
(2013) (Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Dramedy: A long-divorced couple pretends to be married again in order to appease their adopted son's biological mother who's flown in for his wedding.
PLOT:
Don (ROBERT DE NIRO) and Ellie (DIANE KEATON) have been divorced for more than a decade, but are brought back together for the marriage of their adopted son, Alejandro (BEN BARNES), to Missy (AMANDA SEYFRIED), the daughter of Muffin (CHRISTINE EBERSOLE) and Barry (DAVID RASCHE). The latter aren't excited about her marrying a non-Caucasian, but Alejandro's siblings, Lyla (KATHERINE HEIGL) and Jared (TOPHER GRACE), couldn't be happier, which also holds true for Don's longtime live-in girlfriend, Bebe (SUSAN SARANDON).

A big issue arises when Alejandro's biological mother, Madonna (PATRICIA RAE), and sister, Nuria (ANA AYORA), fly in for the wedding. While Nuria is quite liberal, Madonna is conservative and Alejandro worries that she won't accept the fact that Don and Ellie are divorced. Accordingly, and with Father Moinighan (ROBIN WILLIAMS) waiting in the wings to perform the ceremony, the family decides to pretend that the two are still married. As the big day approaches, everyone must contend with the ramifications of that as well as their various individual issues.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
While immediate families -- one or two parents and one or more children under the age of 18 -- are likely the smallest they've been in centuries due to couples deciding to cap the number of kids they have, extended families -- grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, significant others and exes -- are still fairly large for most people. Beyond the holidays and birthdays, the most often the majority of them get together is for weddings or funerals.

Since the latter commonly aren't as fun, festive or simply interesting as the former, most people prefer to attend nuptials over burials, even if that means being exposed to the warts and all of those in attendance. Sensing that, filmmakers also usually desire to make movies about weddings rather than funerals and the latest such example is the blandly and unimaginatively titled "The Big Wedding."

Loosely based on the 2006 French film "Mon frère se marie," it's the tale of an extended family that reunites for the marriage of the adopted son (Ben Barnes) to a lovely young woman (Amanda Seyfried, thankfully not tasked with singing this time around). There's nothing particularly unusual in that setup. Accordingly, writer/director Justin Zackham (best known for penning "The Bucket List") throws in the fact that her parents (Christine Ebersole and David Rasche) are well-to-do racists who look down on her relationship with anyone who's non-Caucasian, especially if they're named Alejandro. Meanwhile, his parents (Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton) are divorced but then forced to pretend to be married again so as not to upset his conservative mother (Patricia Rae), all of which doesn't sit well with the dad's longtime live-in girlfriend (Susan Sarandon).

That adds some potential, but the filmmaker doesn't stop there as the groom's nearly 30-year-old physician brother (Topher Grace) is still a virgin while his sister (Katherine Heigl) has domestic issues of her own and some unexpected news. The groom's biological sister (Ana Ayora) is a hottie with no issues regarding skinny-dipping in front of strangers or announcing to the virgin that she'd like to have sex with him, while the priest (a mostly subdued Robin Williams) is a recovering alcoholic, just like the main dad.

Despite all of those moving plot points, a fairly large and well-known cast and some decidedly adult material, however, the film is fairly boring, instantly forgettable and feels far longer than its 90 minute runtime. In fact, without going back over my notes, the flick has already begun to slip from my consciousness and undoubtedly will soon meld with any number of other wedding-based films from the past few decades.

That said, and while I haven't seen the original film, I can see the above working as a French style farce featuring a cast of little known (to U.S. audiences) performers who have fun with their various parts and interaction with the others. Here, as is oft the case with American remakes of such films, it feels forced and stilted. While there's an occasional decent laugh here and there, for the most part I found this somewhat of a chore to sit through as we've seen this sort of family comedy before, and certainly done better.

For what's asked of them and considering the material with which they're been given to deploy, the various actors deliver okay performances, but nothing more, be that in farce or intended heartfelt moments. Thankfully, and as he did in "Silver Linings Playbook," De Niro again avoids playing what had become of recent nothing more than an amalgamation of his character stereotypes, while Keaton and Sarandon are decent as his past and current loves.

Heigl looks like she'd rather be anywhere else but here, while the overall subplot of Grace being a virgin never escapes its unbelievable sitcom stylings. Barnes and Seyfried are mostly forgettable as the young couple, and Ebersole and Rasche get the unsavory and unrewarding task of playing the racist parents with -- shock of all shocks -- their own set of peccadilloes. For better or worse (depending on how you view the actor when he's typically unleashed), Williams is a bland addition as the alcoholic priest (in a role that otherwise would have gone to the likes of Rowan Atkinson). Tech credits are just as unremarkable and boring as the rest of the offering.

Simply put, there's nothing big or noteworthy about "The Big Wedding." Unlike real-life nuptials where familial and personal fireworks often end up making the event memorable, all of the plates in the air here neither amaze nor crash in any sort of spectacular fashion. Perhaps the funeral version would have been the wiser choice. The film rates as a 3.5 out of 10.




Reviewed April 23, 2013 / Posted April 26, 2013


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