Derek Winnert


This article was written on 23 May 2013, and is filled under Reviews.

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The Big Wedding *** (2013, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Ben Barnes, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Robin Williams) – Movie Review


Oscar winners all, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton and Susan Sarandon head the attractive and appealing all-star cast for this 2013 escapist wedding romantic comedy. The cast are a bunch of old, some very old, pros who have been at it so long that they know what to do with a mediocre, patchy script – that is, whenever it gives them a decent line or two – hit it hard for a home run, and raise a nice big laugh.

And, among all the dross, there are good laughs to be found here, quite a few actually, but somehow not nearly enough, in this story of a sprawling dysfunctional family. DeNiro and Keaton are well and entirely credibly cast as a long-divorced couple who (on the slimmest possible plot excuse) are forced to pretend that they are still married at their adopted son Ben Barnes’s wedding to family friend’s daughter Amanda Seyfried.

Barnes’s birth mom, a Colombian who has never been to America, is the guest of honour at the wedding. Unfortunately, she is supposedly highly traditional, prim and proper, and doesn’t know that De Niro and Keaton are no longer wed (she doesn’t speak English, either, by the way). And hence the charade, a trick that majorly angers De Niro’s present live-in girlfriend Susan Sarandon, who promptly walks out only to return quite soon, bizarrely, as the caterer!

Barnes’s gorgeous Colombian sister also turns up with her mom, a free spirit who delights De Niro’s son (Topher Grace), especially when she takes all her clothes off to go skinning dipping and announces her plan to make love to him. And De Niro’s daughter (Katherine Heigl) is also on the scene, all anxiety, tears and vomiting, fresh from busting up with her obnoxious boyfriend (who also turns up at the wedding) and having problems with her uterus. And, thank goodness, Robin Williams is on hand as well, as the rather cheeky priest in charge of everyone’s morals and the nuptials.

It is sad to report that writer-director Justin Zackham proves to be floundering in both his roles. Best known for his 2007 hit The Bucket List, he simply isn’t able to overcome the problems of being really fun, really wise, or really dramatic in his handling of transferring a French film Mon Frère Se Marie into an American setting.

Another problem is the cast themselves. Williams apart, the actors are not really comedians, so it is often difficult for them to raise the sometimes farcical laughs with the material. De Niro falling over, or being punched in the face by both Keaton and Sarandon just isn’t funny. It’s Robert De Niro! They would obviously be much better with the dramatic and possibly romantic bits, but these are so clumsy, obvious and unconvincing that this part of the movie largely defeats them.

Still, it is the older players that come off best, like the old troupers they are. And it is always a huge pleasure to have De  Niro, Keaton and Sarandon around. They can more or less recite the phone book and make it at least a little bit interesting.

But it is upsetting to see that likeable Heigl, Seyfried and Grace are all struggling in underwritten roles. They have all been around a while, but maybe not long enough to survive when the going’s quite so bumpy. In a chunky role, Brit home-grown talent Barnes does well, though, keeping his end up nicely. If the film was better, this could have kick-started a Hollywood career for him.

© Derek Winnert 2013 Movie Review

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