Movie Review: Wedding Crashers
FILM REVIEW: WEDDING CRASHERS
By Allison Benedikt
Chicago Tribune Staff Writer
Along with ballroom dancing and Supreme Court vacancies, this summer marks the return of the R-rated comedy. After milquetoast laughers "DodgeBall" and "Anchorman," the guys formerly known as funny and currently known as powerful - a.k.a. the Comedy Mafia, a loose group of Hollywood heavy hitters - are going in for the kill with a bawdy, raunchy, sexed-up romantic comedy.
"Wedding Crashers" stars capos Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as business partners and best pals Jeremy Grey and John Beckwith, both consummate Peter Pans who anticipate wedding season with as much fervor as we do Opening Day or the Barneys warehouse sale.
Armed with faux purple hearts, sob stories, rules of the game ("Never leave a fellow crasher behind") and a mean Hava Nagila, the guys crash weddings to pick up the ladies and pick up the party. Whether dancing with grandma, telling dirty jokes to Uncle Stu, making balloon animals for the flower girl or leading the love-giddy reception in a champagne-popping, suit-pant-splitting rendition of "Shout," Jeremy and John charm the females right out of their pants.
As if "Shout" isn't pedestrian enough, John has to go and fall in love, wiping the movie of its slight deviance in a bid for the widest audience - antithetical to its rating, you're right, but I can think of no other explanation for why director David Dobkin plays it so safe. (As one of the film's producers notes, women will love Vince, Owen and the weddings; guys will love Vince, Owen and the crashing. So it's got a little something for everyone, which must mean it's good in that high-profit-margin kind of way.)
After crashing Jewish, Italian, Irish, Chinese and Hindu nuptials, Jeremy and John go for the gold: the blueblood wedding of Treasury Secretary William Cleary's (Christopher Walken) daughter, a lavish affair with such guests as Sen. John McCain (Sen. John McCain) and camera hog James Carville (camera hog James Carville).
Jeremy goes after Cleary's sweet and naive daughter, Gloria (Isla Fisher), who ends up being neither sweet nor naive and whose wandering hand earns the film its much-ballyhooed rating. Quickly infatuated with Jeremy (she is what he calls a "Stage 5 Clinger"), Gloria invites the guys back to the Cleary compound for the weekend, extending the wedding crashing past regulation and introducing us to the kooky rich folk.
Doing Muffy and Buffy things at the shore, John, the lesser of the two ragers, falls hard for Claire (brand-new star Rachel McAdams), the down-to-earth, do-gooding Cleary who just happens to be dating an athletic, arrogant Ivy Leaguer, the preppy son of a prominent family named Sack. Not Zack. Sack.
Walken is an odd choice for a D.C. power player, wasting his creepiness on this straight, respectable role. It's not every day one can say, "I think Craig T. Nelson would have been just as good, if not better, than Christopher Walken," so I suppose the movie does break some ground.
Vaughn steals the movie with his chatty Cathy routine yet again, fine-tuning the overgrown frat boy he introduced in "Swingers" and rolled over into "Old School," "DodgeBall" and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." It's a sharp, funny persona and I don't begrudge Vaughn for sticking with a good thing. But a fast-talking clown needs a disciplined straight man, and Wilson lets him down.
Wilson is disingenuous when the film requires true sincerity, and bored when called upon for leading man charisma. The flip side is that, like Walken, he's better suited to less conventional material, whereas Vaughn has great protagonist potential, if he would just embrace his age and stop going home to the parody that first made him famous.
(Now that I'm planning careers, let me just note that Will Ferrell makes an appearance here as Chaz, the boys' wedding crashing guru, and he too seems to be reincarnating an earlier role or two. Enough with the cameos, boys.)
Dobkin and first-time writers Steve Faber and Bob Fisher have the seed of a good idea here. If you've ever teared up at cloying homemade vows, sat at the singles table or been forced into an uncomfortable group dance, you know that weddings are pure comedy. But they've wasted both the cast, the hard rating and a whole lot of good will by shoving everyone involved into an insipid romance, with some of the funniest guys in Hollywood squandered on gay jokes, a foul-mouthed grandmother and a checklist of family dysfunction.
As with the real Mafia - or at least the one on HBO - it's all about the bottom line. I guess that's always the case, but guys like Vaughn, Wilson and Walken are supposed to make you forget it.
Directed by David Dobkin; written by Steve Faber and Bob Fisher; photographed by Julio Macat; edited by Mark Livolsi; production designed by Barry Robison; music by Rolfe Kent; produced by Peter Abrams, Robert L. Levy and Andrew Panay. A New Line Cinema release; opens Friday, July 15. Running time: 1:53. MPAA rating: R (sexual content/nudity and language).
John Beckwith - Owen Wilson
Jeremy Grey - Vince Vaughn
Claire Cleary - Rachel McAdams
Gloria Cleary - Isla Fisher
Secretary Cleary - Christopher Walken
Kathleen Cleary - Jane Seymour