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Wedding Crashers

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 07/15/05 00:14:24

"Watch as a gaggle of bridesmaids mount the Butterscotch Stallion"
3 stars (Just Average)

There have been so few genuine laughs to be had at the movies this summer, outside of the dark ones in “Land of the Dead” and the unintentional ones in “The Fantastic Four,” that I can almost understand why some people are hyping “Wedding Crashers” as a modern comedy classic–after all, even something as vile as a White Castle hamburger will taste like filet mignon to a starving man. While it probably is the funniest non-documentary comedy of the summer–I laughed more during it than “The Longest Yard,” “The Honeymooners” and “Bewitched” combined–the simple fact is that it is pretty much the cinematic equivalent of a fast-food burger; it will sort of fill your appetite for a funny movie but the ingredients aren’t particularly fresh or flavorful and any attempt to compare to a truly successful comedy only reveals just how shabby it really is.

Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, both essentially doing the same characters they have been perfecting for years–the boorish motor-mouth and the spaced-out slacker–star as Jeremy and John, a pair of lifelong friends and business partners (they work as divorce mediators) who spend their weekend crashing the weddings of complete strangers. This is not because of a craving for wedding cake or because they really like hearing the song “Celebration”–they have discovered that by following the rules of past wedding crashers while making themselves appear to be sensitive and caring, they can easily get the cuter single women into bed with no strings attached. Although John is beginning to suspect that they may be getting a bit too old for such childish antics, he agrees to accompany Jeremy to what is described as “the Kentucky Derby of weddings,” the lavish nuptials being thrown for the daughter of Secretary of the Treasury William Cleary (Christopher Walken).

John and Jeremy are the hit of the festivities and wind up falling for the charms of the two remaining Cleary daughters–John hits it off with the serious-minded Claire (Rachel McAdams) while Jeremy woos and inadvertently deflowers youngest sister Gloria (Isla Fisher), only to discover that she is a clingy and possessive type who seems only moments away from boiling the nearest bunny. When the two are invited to spend the weekend with the Clearys at their compound, Jeremy wants to flee but the now-smitten John forces him to stick around so that he can try to win Claire away from her hateful boyfriend. Additional complications kick in when other members of the Cleary family take an interest in the two interlopers; Claire’s hot-to-trot mother (Jane Seymour in a role about a million miles removed from her “Dr. Quinn” days) makes a play for John while tortured-artiste brother (Keir O’Donnell) tries to seduce Jeremy using paintings and other more direct methods.

All the elements for a strong comedy seem to be in place but “Wedding Crashers” betrays them with a surprising lack of creativity. The opening scenes seem to promise a wild and unpredictable comedy and yet writers Steve Faber & Bob Fisher have inexplicably chosen to fill the screenplay with some of the hoariest comedy cliches imaginable. It almost feels as if they had a checklist of every element that has appeared in a comedy in the last few years–a sweet little old lady reciting the filthiest dialogue imaginable, a perfect and sensitive heroine who is nevertheless unable to realize that she is dating a complete monster, several gags in which homosexuality or gastric disorders figure in the punchline, a last-act cameo from a high-profile performer–and were determined to stick every single one into the screenplay.

This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if they figured out something new and amusing to do with such ideas–such as give the little old lady something to say that was funny as well as vulgar–but that seems to have been too much effort. Even when they have something that would seem to be surefire comic gold, they somehow manage to fumble it–the early appearances by Walken (who can get laughs just by standing there) and Seymour are filled with promise but the two, especially Seymour, all but disappear from the second half of the film. This is especially troubling since the last third of the film–the section where secrets are revealed and lessons are learned–is such a listless and laughless drag that it could use all the help that it can get at that point.

There are laughs to be had in the film, especially in the opening scenes, and most of them come from the easy byplay between Wilson and Vaughn. There are times throughout the film, such as a discussion about Vaughn’s various uses for maple syrup, that sound as if the two have chosen to discard the script and are simply making things up as they go along; they have a snap and comic rhythm that most of the rest of the film lacks. Seeing as how both have co-written funny and distinctive scripts on their own (Vaughn co-wrote “Swingers” while Wilson collaborated with Wes Anderson on “Rushmore” and “The Royal Tennenbaums”), it is tantalizing to think of what kind of screenplay they could have cooked up together based on the premise of wedding crashers. I’d like to think that they would have eliminated the evil boyfriend and given a little more edge to the character of the sweet and perfect daughter–although she is pretty and charming, Rachel McAdams is stuck in the boring-girl part that doesn’t allow her to show any of the comic spark she demonstrated in “Mean Girls.” On the other hand, I hope that they would keep the psycho sister just as she is–as the fatal-attraction-in-training, Isla Fisher scores some big laughs with a performance that veers from wide-eyed innocence to wild-eyed psychosis at the drop of a hat.

“Wedding Crashers” does have some scattered laughs throughout and if that is all that you want out of a movie at this point, I suppose that it might be worth a glance. However, I can’t fully recommend it because there aren’t that many of them and the ones that do appear lack the endlessly quotable moments of such classic slob comedies as “Animal House” or “Caddyshack.” In truth, this is probably more comparable to the likes of “Road Trip.” Then again, when was the last time that you found yourself quoting from “Road Trip”?

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