Generally speaking, the average film these days tends to run too long, usually by about ten, maybe fifteen minutes. The Big Wedding, a new comic farce from director Justin Zackham runs about eighty-four minutes plus credits, and it feels so short that at the final fade out you might be thinking, wait… that was it?
Originally titled simply The Wedding – evidently Big was added after research – The Big Wedding is a remake of a 2006 French sex farce called Mon Frère Se Marie, and you can see the European farcical construction right from the start. Marriage, an introductory voice-over from Robert De Niro tells us, is like a late night telephone call. “First comes the ring,” he says, “Then you wake up.”
De Niro and Diane Keaton play Don and Ellie Griffin and they divorced some time ago. Now living separate lives, they are forced to pretend they’re still a couple when their adopted son, Alejandro, is about to marry. His biological mother from Colombia is flying in for the wedding and she’s a devout Catholic and has no clue that her boy’s American foster parents are no longer together.
This is the traditional kind of sex farce where characters pretend to be what they’re not and everyone has a secret that is revealed in the final act.
There are several delights in The Big Wedding and watching the great, ensemble cast of seasoned professionals is one of them. In addition to De Niro and Keaton there’s also Susan Sarandon as Bebe, the woman with whom De Niro’s character currently lives, and she has to move out of the house for a couple of days in order to keep the facade going, and she’s not happy about it. “You really know how to serve your revenge cold,” she tells Keaton for reasons that won’t be revealed here but will make total sense when you see the film.
Robin Williams has a short though funny role as the family priest. When the young couple meet him for the required interview before the service, he informs them that “Divorce is a sin in the eyes of God,” then adds, “No pressure.”
Patricia Rae is Madonna, the Colombian mother who flies in for the wedding. She speaks no English – her dialog is subtitled throughout – and she’s suspicious from the moment she steps out of the taxi. For most of the film she has the continual, disapproving look of someone who constantly smells something bad. Even though she doesn’t understand the language, she can see that everyone around her is either lying or having an affair with someone they shouldn’t. “It’s like watching Telemundo,” she complains to her son.
In many respects, you feel as though you’ve seen it all before. The set up is really La Cage Aux Folles without the transvestites, and the design of the film – the large, country estate by the picturesque lake, the white walls, the white suits for the men, the white dresses for the women, and everyone’s attractive – has the look of Sweden’s Smiles of a Summer Night. It’s as if La Cage’s Renato and Albin spent a weekend in the country with Ingmar Bergman. But despite its familiar feel, the film’s adult humor – at times, very adult; it earns its R rating – is often funny. There are even a couple of belly laughs, a rarity in our homegrown comedies these days.
MPAA Rating: R Length: 89 minutes Overall Rating; 6 (out of 10)