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Scott, this week we were invited to The Big Wedding. It looks like someone got cake on their face.
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)
Greg, it was a Big something. ‘Wedding’ is not the noun I would use. But I’ll save my thoughts for later. Let’s recap first.
Our story begins with Don (Robert De Niro) and Elle (Diane Keaton) Griffin who have been divorced for 10 years. Elle walks in on Don and Bebe (Susan Sarandon) who are fooling around and creates an awkward situation. Elle is visiting because her and Don’s son Alejandro (Ben Barnes) is getting married. Alejandro is Don and Elle’s adoptive son from Columbia. The problem is, Alejandro’s biological mother Madonna (Patricia Rae) is coming to the wedding and she’s a devout Catholic and believes divorce is a sin. So, Don and Elle have to pretend that they are married in an attempt to fool non-English-speaking Madonna.
There are additional attempts to inject awkwardness into the festivities, as when Don and Elle’s other son, a 30-year-old virgin named Jared (Topher Grace), meets his beautiful and horny Columbian step-sister-to-be (Ana Ayora). Don and Elle’s daughter Lyla (Katherine Heigl), arrives in sadness after having recently separated from her husband. She’s so upset that she vomits all over Don. To cap it all off, we have an alcoholic priest (Robin Williams) who doesn’t really act like a priest but who’s there to counsel everyone.
And we’re off… oh and not to mention that the in-laws are bigots and can’t stand the thought of beige grandchildren. This is a very convoluted story which is worthy of a Shakespearean comedy. However, the writing is not in the hands of the immortal bard, but rather Justin Zackham, who approaches the script with all the delicacy of a sledgehammer. We’ve seen all of these tropes in prime-time sitcoms.
But here, the writers throw political correctness to the wind. For example, Nuria (the Columbian sister) decides that she wants to go swimming so she strips down to her birthday suit in front of several onlookers. We’re led to believe that she is naive in the ways of the modern world and prone to throwing herself on men. Later, she surreptitiously gives Jared a hand job under the table at dinner. But she’s corrected by Jared’s mother who (in a single off-screen bathroom conversation) convinces her that women should be respected and turns the girl into an instant feminist.
Greg, I knew we were in trouble from the opening scene, when we’re witness to one veteran actor, who is nearly 70 years-old, interrupting two other 70-year-old actors about to perform a sex act in the kitchen. One buckles to the floor, hiding his erection, while the other two toss out jokes about body parts and intercourse. I guess we’re supposed to find this funny, but I was genuinely embarrassed for the actors involved, all of whom — until now — have had worthy careers.
This disastrous opening scene told me that the writing in this movie was going to be so weak that any laughs were designed to come from contrived situations, sophomoric behavior, and shock value. Apparently, none of the characters in this movie have anything but sex on their minds, and they also appear to be unable to censor any tasteless thoughts that pop into their heads.
Everyone in the story treats the mother (Madonna) like an idiot. She simply could not speak English. But they talk loudly and gesticulate in front of her. The main players were trying to hide Don’s relationship with Bebe by standing in front of a naked portrait of her. Or by rushing to remove pictures of her.
And (potential spoiler) Don has sex with Elle and proudly proclaims it “was the most pipe I’ve laid in 20 years.” Which begs the question, what has he been doing with Bebe for the last 20 years? The characters are embarrassing to themselves and to the stereotypes they portray.
The choices these characters make defy explanation, other than to serve as a set-up for the next sex joke. Don has to pretend to be married to Elle, and so of course that means Elle has to sleep in the same bed with Don instead of the obvious alternatives like, say, sleeping on the floor or in the chair. Their tryst is obviously preventable but that would thwart the movie’s apparent goal of showing an endless parade of unrealistic, sexually clumsy situations.
We’re also supposed to laugh when Madonna stares incredulously at one of Don’s sculptures of a woman pleasuring herself. Did I mention that these are 70-year-old actors, not middle-school kids?
By the end of the story everyone’s “problem” was resolved one way or the other – just as you knew it must. The answers to the questions are telescoped from the very beginning. This is not usually a problem. In these types of stories it’s not whether or not people get what they want, but HOW they get what they want. And in the case of The Big Wedding, everyone gets what they want in the most trivial and obvious ways possible.
The Big Wedding is a bore and simplistically structured. The laughs are a result of embarrassing situations, not clever dialogue. I give The Big Wedding 0 Reels out of 5 and 0 Heroes out of 5. And I think it deserves a nomination for the Reel Hero Hall of Shame for the worst movie we’ve seen so far this year.
Greg, it was a mess, and these actors should fire their agents and do some soul-searching for having participated in this project. Yes, half of the actors involved are in professional decline, perhaps making them willing to take just about any acting job that comes their way. Being in this film only accelerates their decline. Robert De Niro, you’re better than this — please stay home and play golf rather than be part of a film that has absolutely no merit to it at all.
There was no hero story here. Just an ensemble cast that is largely interchangeable. One juvenile and buffoonish character could easily have substituted for any of the other juvenile and buffoonish characters. People in the real world don’t act like any of these people. Heck, people in most bad movies don’t act like them, either. So it’s a Big Mess. For that reason, I also nominate The Big Mess for the Hall of Shame, giving it as many Reels as there are good characters — zero — and as many Heroes as there are heroes in the movie — again zero.