The premise is a winner, the two key roles are wonderfully cast with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn and the gross-but-not-too-gross humor will score with young moviegoers -- at least those able to get into an R-rated comedy. But Wedding Crashers is still a letdown. The film never quite lives up to the promise of its premise. The film starts out quirky, but settles for the routine. And characters, instead of deepening, flatten out.
Nevertheless, pairing Wilson and Vaughn strengthens the weaker moments and makes the better ones explode with comic energy. Wedding Crashers is enough of a laugh-getter that New Line can anticipate a boxoffice hit.
Wilson and Vaughn play John and Jeremy, a couple of guys making a living in Washington, D.C., as divorce mediators -- this gets established in a funny opening scene -- but that's not their real claim to fame. No, what makes them very special guys is this great girl-catching gimmick they have developed: They crash weddings. Weddings, you see, bring out a lot of hot women, the ceremonies get them all romantic and the parties lessen their inhibitions. As long as the two have a well-rehearsed explanation as to who they are and how they are related to the bride or groom, the game is almost too easy.
Then the inevitable -- read predictable -- happens: One of the guys breaks the rules of the game by falling in love. This happens when they crash the wedding of the daughter of Treasury Secretary William Cleary (Christopher Walken) and hit on bridesmaids Claire (Rachel McAdams) and Gloria (Isla Fisher) Cleary. Each spells trouble.
For John, Claire presents a double challenge. He not only falls for her but also is blocked by an obstacle in the form of her highly competitive boyfriend, Sack (Bradley Cooper), scion of another East Coast political clan. For Jeremy, Gloria turns out to be a "clinger." After a satisfying tryst on the beach, Gloria refuses to leave her new love's side. She even gets her father to invite the boys back to the family compound for an exclusive post-wedding party.
Jeremy wants to flee fast, but John clearly needs more time with Claire to win her over -- a whole lot more time. So John insists that Jeremy must tarry and back him up. Soon their cover stories are looking shaky.
The central feature of the midsection of the movie are the eccentricities of the Cleary clan, who are Kennedy-esque only much naughtier. The secretary is a self-centered philanderer; his wife, Kathleen (Jane Seymour), a lush on the make for younger men like John; Gloria, a virtual nymphomaniac; and brother Todd (Keir O'Donnell), a bad artist and, as Grandma Cleary so inelegantly puts it, "a homo."
Then a funny thing happens to this comedy with an edge of political satire: It takes a detour into SitcomLand. Characters turn into caricatures, and soon the family is more crackpot than eccentric. None is capable of getting appointed rat catcher much less Secretary of the Treasury.
It's a loss but a minor one as the film still has merry fun with Wilson and Vaughn cutting loose in this loony household. And McAdams and Fisher are more than just good-looking actresses; each has a solid knack for comedy. Walken always makes more of such roles than is really there, but much more should have been done with Seymour's character.
Director David Dobkin (Shanghai Knights) moves the two-hour comedy quickly enough so few viewers will dwell on plot holes or character deficiencies. The technical side is bright, especially a montage by editor Mark Livolsi of the boys working their amorous magic at a series of Jewish, Irish and Italian weddings. Julio Macat's cinematography is sharp, and Barry Robison's sets and Denise Wingate's costumes portray a class of people exceedingly comfortable with their undeserved riches.
THE WEDDING CRASHERS
New Line Cinema
A Tapestry Films production
Director: David Dobkin
Screenwriters: Steve Faber & Bob Fisher
Producers: Peter Abrams, Robert L. Levy, Andrew Panay
Executive producers: Guy Riedel
Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener, Cale Boyter
Director of photography: Julio Macat
Production designer: Barry Robison
Music: Rolfe Kent
Costumes: Denise Wingate
Editor: Mark Livolsi
John Beckwith: Owen Wilson
Jeremy Klein: Vince Vaughn
Secretary Cleary: Christopher Walken
Claire Cleary: Rachel McAdams
Gloria Cleary: Isla Fisher
Kathleen Cleary: Jane Seymour
Grandma Cleary: Ellen Albertini Dow
Todd Cleary: Keir O'Donnell
Sack Lodge: Bradley Cooper
MPAA rating: R
Running time -- 119 minutes
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