Perhaps because I spent a large chunk of my misspent youth as a photographer, I am a little resistant to the charms and emotional resonance of weddings. After you’ve heard the service more in one month than Zsa Zsa Gabor has in a lifetime, and have witnessed the same mildly crude jokes and all the trappings over and over again, the bloom is definitely off the lily.
So the idea of a movie that uses the premise of weddings as a kind of overheated dating pool for a pair of horny, shallow bachelors had an immediate appeal for me — even if the trailer for Wedding Crashers made it obvious that the film was going to head into a life-lessons-learned romantic comedy before it was over.
The manic teaming of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn seemed inspired — and was. This had all the earmarks of the great comedy of the summer. Truth to tell, that film may very well be buried somewhere inside of Wedding Crashers‘ way-overlong 119 minutes. If ever a movie had “this should have been 90 minutes” written all over it, this is it.
The movie starts out splendidly, with our arrested-adolescent heroes, John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy Klein (Vince Vaughn), plying their actual trade as divorce mediators. The scene is funny and raunchy — deftly moving from saccharine attempts at marital bromides to more practical, albeit crude, suggestions about moving on (“Go get some strange ass”). And the upshot of this beginning, which makes them the butt of the joke as much as it does their clients, suggests a really savvy screenplay is about to unfold.
The follow-up with the boys (and let’s be honest, that’s what they are) plotting their avocational activities during “wedding season” is good — and the first wedding followed by an increasingly frenetic montage of weddings (deliciously put together in an almost hallucinatory assemblage) keeps the film going full-speed-ahead. Director David Dobkin is onto something here (as he is in using the Washington Monument as a recurring phallic backdrop for the film’s scenes).
That said, you spend part of your viewing time realizing that the plot has to kick in. And when it finally does, with the duo crashing the wedding of the daughter of Secretary of the Treasury William Cleary (Christopher Walken), the film navigates the necessary change of gears with considerable panache — and keeps it up (sorry) through most of the duo’s visit to the Kennedyesque Cleary home. Even as the obligatory serious side to the story surfaces — John falling for Claire Cleary (Rachel McAdams, Mean Girls) instead of just wanting to sleep with her, the film keeps its giddy, bad-taste-at-all-costs tone pretty much intact. After all, we’re given a family where the sanest member, apart from Claire, is played by Christopher Walken, and that’s an accomplishment of some note!
Before we arrive at the house, we already know that Jeremy’s wedding conquest, Gloria Cleary (Isla Fisher, I Heart Huckabees), is a spoiled brat, a nymphomaniac and a stalker just waiting to happen. Then there’s the “artistic” son, Todd (Keir O’Donnell, In Your Face), a not-very-closeted homosexual with daddy issues, whom the screenplay uses in both a cliched and unexpected manner (Todd’s mistaking the nudge-nudge-wink-wink heterosexual crudity for come-ons is a shrewd jab at the straight world’s default assumption that everyone is straight).
Mrs. Clearly (Jane Seymour) is not only sexually voracious, but is also apparently suffering from a multiple personality disorder. And then there’s Grandma Cleary (Ellen Albertini Dow, Road Trip), a social disaster whose reminiscences about FDR trail off into a jaw-dropping ramble on Eleanor’s lesbianism in the crudest possible terms, before she turns her attention to Todd’s “artistic” nature.
As high-caliber tasteless raunchiness, this is good stuff that takes full advantage of the movie’s in-your-face R rating. There’s even a degree of relevant social satire to it all, some of which is brought home by Claire’s despicable boyfriend, Sack (Bradley Cooper, TV’s Alias).
But when the movie hits the obligatory grim stretch of the romantic comedy — where the girl dumps the boy (or vice versa) and we get a reel or two of moping before things get set right — Wedding Crashers starts to go wrong. There’s still funny stuff to be had, but it goes on nigh on to forever, drags in a pointless, distracting and largely unfunny cameo for Will Ferrell at his most virulent, and finally serves up a gooey and unsatisfying ending that even the staunchest efforts of Wilson and Vaughn can’t quite overcome.
At its best — which is at least two-thirds of the movie — Wedding Crashers is outrageous fun for the not easily offended. After that, the amusement is sporadic and more than a little patience is required. Rated R for sexual content, nudity and language.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke