With stars like Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Robin Williams, and Christine Ebersole, The Big Wedding has managed to assemble quite the guest list. Unfortunately, the movie is a little too reliant on the names of its cast – and a little less so on the actual plot – for it to be all that enjoyable. You have to wonder how writer/director Justin Zackham (writer of The Bucket List) managed to convince this all-star cast to join forces for this ensemble comedy that doesn’t quite manage to hit all of the right notes. It attempts to be funny and raunchy, as well as endearing when necessary, though it results in an hour and a half of trying-too-hard farce.
Based on the French movie Mon Frère se Marie, The Big Wedding is about one extended family’s attempt to get through a weekend wedding without a hitch, despite disaster looming ahead. Alejandro and Missy (Ben Barnes and Amanda Seyfried) are about to get married, though Missy’s parents (Christine Ebersole and David Rasche) are having second thoughts due to Alejandro’s Columbian origin. As a child, he was adopted by Ellie and Don (Diane Keaton and Robert De Niro.) They have since divorced, leaving Don free to date Ellie’s best friend Bebe (Susan Sarandon). When Alejandro’s devoutly religious birth mother (Patricia Rae) comes from Columbia for the wedding, he doesn’t have the heart to tell her his adoptive parents have been divorced for years. Instead, he enlists his parents to bury the hatchet and pretend to still be happily married, casting Bebe to the background. Robin Williams makes a few appearances throughout as their wacky priest, who may not be as religious as Alejandro’s mother would like him to be.
To make matters worse, Ellie and Don’s biological children, Lyla and Jared, (Katherine Heigl and Topher Grace) each have secrets of their own. Lyla has just broken up with her long-term boyfriend after a few attempts at unsuccessful in vitro fertilization. She now gets dizzy when seeing children and is constantly nauseous. Jared is a 29 year-old-virgin waiting for true love, though he is having second thoughts. These second thoughts worsen when he meets Alejandro’s gorgeous birth sister, Nuria (Ana Ayora). While everyone tries so desperately to hold on to their own secrets, things inevitably start to unravel. Fueled by alcohol and sexual escapades, the characters enter into implausibly farcical situations.
Though the ingredients for a good farce are there, the film still takes too long to move from one point to the next, and manages to feel longer than it actually is. It elicits a few laughs, but could have been packed with more. The actors do a good enough job with the limited characters they are given. The characters all feel like superficial stereotypes, rather than fleshed-out human beings. I will say, though, that people looking for mindless summer entertainment – along the same vein as films Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve – will probably enjoy the film more than I did.