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Wedding Crashers (2005) Print E-mail
Friday, 15 July 2005
A romantic comedy rated R has become a rare thing, but here’s one. Fortunately, it doesn’t aim for the usual crude fart-piss-and-poop jokes that have marred a lot of even pretty good comedies recently. Instead, it’s more frank about sex and you see more boobs, too. It’s a brash, funny movie that doesn’t quite convince on several levels, and tends to go on a little too long.

Each movie has a particular rhythm that indicates where the end should be—but in “Wedding Crashers” the beat goes on a little too long. You’re ready for the movie to end before it actually does. However, the trip there is bright and sassy, with big, funny performances by costars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn.

Their roles are relatively familiar; Wilson is John, a sharpie who passes himself off as an aw-shucks good ol’ boy at large in the big city. (Mostly Washington D.C., an unusual setting for such a movie.) Vaughn is the big, bold loudmouth, similar to, say, his “Swingers” role, only his Jeremy here is basically a nice guy. Sure, at first he’s clearly a user, but the script (by Steve Faber and Bob Fisher) also clearly establishes that John and Jeremy are very close friends, devoted to one another. This alone gives “Wedding Crashers” a different tone than most such films with two male leads; all too often, the friendship between the two guys has to be destroyed in order to be rebuilt. Not here.

The two run a divorce counseling service in D.C., and the movie opens with them overseeing an acrimonious—but funny—breakup. Once this is taken care of—well, it’s June, and they launch themselves on their usual outing. As the title says, they crash weddings. They keep track of large weddings being held all around D.C., and arrive appropriately dressed (and with appropriate pseudonyms, Jewish for that kind of wedding, Irish for THAT kind, and so on). They’ve learned that as weddings are ceremonies celebrating true love, the young women guests are primed for romance. Plus there’s great food and lots of champagne.

The two screw and smile their way through a whole heck of a lot of weddings, finally in a beautifully-edited (if too long) montage to a raucous rendition of “Shout!” Then they find themselves at the wedding of the eldest daughter of Secretary of Commerce Cleary (Christopher Walken). The two happy chappies are ready to work their way through the female guests when John spots Cleary’s next-eldest daughter Claire (Rachel McAdams), the maid of honor, giggling through the ornate, corny wedding vows penned by the bride and groom.
In the lavish reception afterward, John finds himself increasingly drawn to the attractive Claire, who has a wry but broad smile that’s very appealing. And she’s interested in him, too. Meanwhile, Jeremy has lured youngest Cleary daughter Gloria (Ilsa Fisher) down to the beach. Later she sits up and joyfully exclaims that she just KNEW her first time would be on the beach! Jeremy is appalled—he didn’t intend to deflower a virgin. Especially one with such a powerful father. What’s more, Gloria immediately declares their lasting love and insists that Jeremy accompany her and her family to their Nantucket-like home. (Yes, the Clearys are basically the Kennedys again.)

Jeremy swiftly seeks John, begs for his help. “I got a stage five clinger!” he exclaims. But it’s too late—John has also been invited to the Cleary home, and he really wants to go. He’s having feelings for Claire that are mostly new to him.

Events clatter and bang around the enormous Cleary estate. Some of it is interesting: Claire’s fiancée Sack Lodge (Bradley Cooper) is a determinedly macho political climber, currently claiming to endorse environmental issues. Secretary Cleary is interested in the Lodge and Cleary families joining up, but Sack is beginning to seem a bit too much to Claire—especially with John around for comparison.

The men engage in (what else?) a touch football game that Sack embraces as an opportunity for full-out body blocking, reducing the tall Jeremy to a whimpering, whining mess. The rest of the time, Jeremy is torn between indulging the enthusiastically horny Gloria’s sex fantasies and getting the hell away from her.

I’m not familiar with Rachel McAdams, who was in “The Notebook,” but she’s a delight here. She has an open, cheerful, all-American-girl sassy intelligence that’s unusual these days, and very welcome. Ilsa Fisher, an Aussie in her late twenties, is completely convincing as a randy teenaged American. The wonderful Henry Gibson has a few good scenes as a quiet priest friend of the Cleary family. Walken is rather subdued much of the time, but for those who respect him, it’s good to see him working in major movies.

There are some troublesome lapses in the script. Evidently just to have enough running time, the writers and director David Dobkin trot out one of the hoariest stereotypes in movie comedy history, the old granny who talks trash. (In this case, about FDR and Eleanor.) If there’s any been-there-done-that character in comedies set among the upper crust, that’s it.

Another stereotype is the weird brother; costar Christopher Walken himself played such a role in “Annie Hall.” Here, it’s Todd Cleary (Keir O’Donnell) who isn’t just a weird, beady-eyed artist but gay. The movie teeters dangerously on the brink of homophobia, some, I’m sure, will feel that it topples over. And it was unnecessary.

So is a shoehorned-in scene of Sack and Senator Cleary leading the others, including the very green John and Jeremy, on a grouse hunt. This is the sort of scene you’d expect to find in the “deleted scenes” section of a “Wedding Crashers” DVD: it doesn’t add a damned thing to the movie, and is totally isolated—no one refers to it later. It shouldn’t have been here.

Their friendship keep John and Jeremy at the Cleary home, even though Jeremy is really eager to get the hell out of there. For one thing, much to his surprise, he’s actually becoming fond of Gloria. This aspect of the story is not very convincing. Nor is the added element of Cleary’s hard-drinking wife (Jane Seymour) developing a Mrs. Robinson-like interest in Jeremy. And Todd has fallen for Jeremy, too. Neither of these story threads are developed, and both could have been dropped, although Seymour looks like she’s having a lot of fun playing against her wholesome “Dr. Quinn” image. She even almost has a topless scene.

Sack is angry at both John and Jeremy; Jeremy because he’s big and handsome, John because he doesn’t take Sack very seriously (CAN you take someone named “Sack” seriously?), and because it’s all too obvious that Claire is showing a lot of interest in him.Of course, our two pals are eventually found out. Can John convince Claire that his affection for her is genuine? Well, yeah, of course; this is a ROMANTIC comedy, after all. But it takes too long to get to that point.

Still, most of the time “Wedding Crashers” is a lot of fun. It’s well cast, shows us a lot of beautiful locations in excellent color, and gives Vaughn his first all-out comedy role in some time. He makes the most of it, and he’s the movie’s major asset. Wilson is fun, too, but we’ve seen him do pretty much this kind of thing recently. (There’s also a guest star who turns up near the end. Not a real surprise, but he’s welcome enough.)

This is a big, brassy summer comedy; it’s not intended to do much more than make you feel good for a couple of hours. It has a lot of attractive performers, it has a novel basis (wedding crashing), and it’s briskly directed. What more do you want on a Friday night out?

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