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Friday, 13 December 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Big Wedding

Directed by: Justin Zackham

Produced by: Justin Zackham
Anthony Katagas
Clay Pecorin
Richard Salvatore
Harry J. Ulfand

Screenplay by: Justin Zackham

Based on: Mon frere se marie by Jean-Stephane Bron
and Karine Sudan

Starring: Robert De Niro
Diane Keaton
Susan Sarandon
Katherine Heigl
Ben Barnes
Amanda Seyfried
Topher Grace
Robin Williams

Music by: Nathan Barr

Cinematography by: Jonathan Brown

Editing by: Jon Corn

Studio(s): Two Ton Films
Millenium Films

Distributed by: Lionsgate

Release date(s): April 26, 2013 (United States)
May 29, 2013 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 89 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $35 million

Box-office revenue: $35, 770, 721

Hey there, dudes and dudettes (I sincerely hope you do not refer to yourselves as such if you are a frequent reader, because they're horrible monikers!), I've been as usual keeping up to tricks, and because I am an uninventive balloon-head with an inflated ego who cannot begin a review with legitimate introduction, I am going to tell you. Yesterday, I saw this year's Palme d'Or-winning picture, Blue Is The Warmest Colour, and a review will be coming up for that. Other things are in the pipeline as well, don't worry, so as ever, for all the latest and greatest in the movies, keep your eyes posted!

Today's movie up for review is The Big Wedding, a romantic comedy that is a remake of the 2006 French film My Brother Is Getting Married, and stars an ensemble cast which features Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams, among others whose names I cannot be bothered rattling off as I'm sure I'll get round to them at some point. The Big Wedding has become noteworthy, if only because it has been one of the worst reviewed films of 2013 and also tanked at the box-office. To be frank, my interest in watching this emerges from a desire to get my five dimes, because as I'm sure those of you who follow the blog are well aware, I like to have an opinion on everything. So, story goes that Don (De Niro) and Ellie (Keaton) were married for over twenty years, having three children before divorcing, and Don is in a relationship with Bebe (Sarandon), Ellie's former best friend. The titular wedding of the title is a reference to that of Don and Ellie's adopted son, Alejandro (Ben Barnes), and his fiance Missy (Amanda Seyfried). All seems to be going to plan, but Alejando's biological mother Madonna (Patricia Rae) is coming over for the wedding, and, fearing she, a devout Catholic, would disapprove of Alejandro's non-traditional, non-nuclear family, a plan is hedged that for the duration of her stay Don and Ellie are to pretend to be still married, while Bebe has to make haste and be discreet. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah! Got it? Good!

To start with the good (yes, believe it or not, there is some good to The Big Wedding), there are a couple of funny moments that did incite about two or three good laughs from me. There are many comedies are I have seen (including this year's The Hangover Part III) which are bereft of anything really to laugh about, so at least The Big Wedding has something. Also, I'd be denying it if I didn't find some amusement in various Hollywood a-listers shamelessly degrade themselves by starring in something like this. Furthermore, there a couple of other things praiseworthy about the film. There's a good and genuinely touching scene in the film involving De Niro and Katherine Heigl, who plays his daughter and is sort-of a daddy's little girl character, which shows just the kind of quality that the film could have been if executed well. Also, I respect the depiction of a non-nuclear family in the picture. The fact is is that in society traditional familial structures such as the nuclear family are no longer the norm, nor should they be portrayed as such, above and beyond any other. This is not any endorsement of polygamy or what have you, but I admire how The Big Wedding has this family, which has conjugal elements and extended step-family and what have you, shown as a family, for all it's dysfunctions, just like any other.

Now, while it has those things going for it (and, incidentally, I wasn't just trying to fill space, because it's not down there with the worst of the worst), The Big Wedding is nevertheless a poor film. I'm not going to lay the finger on one person for this whole production, but writer-producer-director Justin Zackhan does have a lot to answer for here. In all of his capacities, he is lacking something to elevate this not just to the status of any sort of greatness, but even to that of a decent movie. The screenplay, for all the complexity (or rather, machinations) of the family, is lifeless and you do not get a sense of these characters being real people. It's like Zackhan has gathered up all the tropes possible and just decided to throw them together into a smelting pot so that they become a family. The old saying still rings true: you dress it up all you want, you put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig. Also, it is still a highly predictably structured movie, and, like Vic Mackey, you can guess about three steps ahead of everything the movie's going to throw at you. The dialogue too, which I'm sure didn't exactly look good on paper, doesn't exactly lift off the page. It's one of those one's were there is a bit of space after a zinger for a laugh, and I imagine in the cinema all you'd get is an awkward silence punctuated by a cough, sneeze or act of flatulence (yes, I mean a fart!). I had a point I was going to make yesterday, but I have since gone to see Black Sabbath at the Odyssey Arena, and frankly, though I'd like to make it and perhaps it'll come back to me, I can't remember what I was going to say and in that case neither the point nor the movie are worth the time it would take to remember. From this stage I move onto Zackhan's role, or rather lack thereof, as a director. The Big Wedding's not one of those movies that you can get overly angry about, but that's because it is one of the most mundane, middle of the road, no-brainer easy audience movies I've seen this year. There isn't much here to make this in any way a distinguished movie, and while his multiple roles would suggest a certain level of investment in the film, this feels like the work of a director-for-hire. There's no problem with directors-for-hire, heck, Michael Curtiz made an entire career out of it, and Kim Jee-woon has got his foot in the Hollywood door with The Last Stand, but this possesses all the worst traits of a director-for-hire work, a guy who seems to be directing with all the disinterest of a sloth hanging from a branch. Other aspects of this movie are as rotten as Justin Zackhan, including the original score by Nathan Barr. I think to call this music is to do it a service that it does not deserve, because you're supposed to just go with it, to use a term, but here, you are being told what to feel and what to think. This is one of those monotonously derivative scores that's all bouncy and ho ho ho, hah hah hah, prodding you lightly but enough to cause severe irritation, especially if it's being done near continuously for ninety minutes. It got to a point that I just wanted to mute the film and listen to some Gary Numan, but because I give a shit about the legitimacy of film criticism, I stuck it out. Also, although I've dedicated a good lot of space criticising Justin Zackhan, he is not going to be a whipping boy, for the cast that inhabits this film have a lot to answer for. Robert De Niro, one of the most dedicated actors of all time, star of two films that I consider among the top twenty-five of all time (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver); Diane Keaton, who made her name in the seventies in The Godfather films and for working in many of Woody Allen's classic comedies; Susan Sarandon, an actress with a most astonishing range and variety to her film parts with a career that has spanned over four decades; Robin Williams, a man with a tremendous sense of humour and who has carved his craft in the film, television and stand-up mediums; Katherine Heigl, an actress who six years ago got a Best Actress nomination from yours truly for her work in Knocked Up and who could have had a dazzling career, but who every time she shows up onscreen makes you swallow your Adam's apple in anticipation (or rather, dread) of what is going to follow; Ben Barnes, Topher Grace, Amanda Seyfried: all these folks are equally as responsible for this shamefully dull film. 

I admit wholeheartedly to being a hypocrite. I tried not to off on a tangent. Really, I did. I said I wouldn't and in the picture's defence it's not as outrageously bad or annoying as many other movies that have been released this year. However, it doesn't change the fact that this is dullard, middle-of-the-road, unengaged boredom, made relatively merciful by it's short running time. I more or less read off that list of all the people involved in this movie, and call it cheap naming and shaming all you want, but there has to be some sort of accountability and/or responsibility taken for the existence of such a bland film.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 3.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Fine (as I said Black Sabbath gig, saw Blue Is The Warmest Colour, which I'm looking forward to reviewing, and still reading Clive Barker's Imajica, so I feel like I've indulged well culture-wise this week)

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