WRITTEN BY: Justin Zackham
DIRECTED BY: Justin Zackham
STARRING: Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace, Amanda Seyfried, Ben Barnes
RATING: 3 stars
You would think that a film starring three of the greatest actors of their generation would be an almost certain hit, and yet, The Big Wedding has been brutally bashed by US critics. I had very low expectations but was pleasantly surprised to see that although it is not a great film, it is fun and quirky. Thanks mostly to a likeable cast, writer/director Justin Zackham, who wrote The Bucket List, has been able to weave a complicated plot full of odd relationships and make it an enjoyable popcorn film. Anyone contemplating the complexities of uniting two unusual and embarrassing families for a wedding will certainly enjoy a few giggles along the way.
Don (Robert De Niro) and Ellie (Diane Keaton) have divorced and Don now lives with Bebe (Susan Sarandon). Don and Ellie's adopted son Alejandro (Ben Barnes) is marrying Missy (Amanda Seyfried) so the entire family comes together for the wedding, including Don and Ellie's biological children Jared (Topher Grace) and Lyla (Katherine Heigl). Jared is a 29-year-old virgin waiting for love and Lyla is struggling to cope with a marriage that appears to be in tatters. Alejandro's biological mother Madonna (Patricia Rae) is also attending the wedding from Columbia, but as a devout Catholic, she believes divorce is a sin. So, Alejandro asks Don and Ellie to pretend they are still married.
One good thing to come out of this film was Barnes, who should be cast in more films. He is an absolute delight. Seyfried has a small role but she is quite funny, while Grace has one of the funnier and sweeter plot lines. Heigl has taken on a more serious role in this film and it pays off for her. It is still strange for me to watch De Niro in roles like this but he gives a good performance and is supported well by his leading ladies, Keaton and Sarandon. I don't know why Robin Williams agreed to his minor role as the Catholic priest. He's not funny, nor is he in any way deep or complex enough to warrant any intrigue. Anyone could have played that role.
Despite the good cast, the film lacks some important sparks. The chemistry is good, the humour is mostly enjoyable, and yet the film fails to hit the mark in parts. The ending in particular is below average. There is certainly a good message to be received from The Big Wedding, but it is not really clear what the message is and perhaps that is because the film tries too hard to be both funny and dramatic. As far as wedding films go, I would rather re-watch Father of the Bride.