Director Justin Zackham has set forth to create a huge, all-star, hilarious romantic comedy based upon the 2006 French film Mon frère se marie, but does he succeed? The Big Wedding looks at the trials and tribulations of an extended family coming together to celebrate their adopted son’s marriage. Initially, watching the trailer leaves one in a state of confusion, with its overwhelming list of characters. Actors trying to induce laughter include Susan Sarandon, Robert De Niro, Amanda Seyfried, Diane Keaton, Katherine Heigl, Robin Williams and many, many more.
As the film unfolds, the confusion dispels and the plot is very watchable. It transpires that Alejandro (Ben Barnes) must convince his adoptive, divorced parents to reunite for one weekend to keep up appearances for his strictly conservative biological mother. The film relies heavily upon jokes around the language barrier between his alcoholic buffoon of a father Don (De Niro) and his American family, contrasting with his ultra-religious Colombian mother and flirtatiously liberal Spanish-speaking sister. Casual racism is typified by the bride’s mother Muffin who is terrified at the thought of having “beige, bilingual children” and the priest (Robin Williams) who congratulates the groom on graduating from Harvard along with the “rest of China”.
Jokes are thrust upon the audience thick and fast, and while they attempt to be risqué, often fall flat and feel inappropriate. The first vulgar joke arrives with ex-wife Ellie (Keaton) stumbling in upon Don about to perform a sexual act on his new lover, who happens to be Ellie’s old best friend Bebe (Sarandon). There are lots of poor attempts at slapstick foolishness: De Niro falling into a pool, or Katherine Heigl being sick down her father’s back. It seems impossible to stumble through any bedroom door in this family home without finding some farcical happening, usually accompanied by overblown sexual noises.
The big revelations come pouring forth on the wedding day. All the scandals: secret pregnancies, illicit affairs, marital reunions, bisexuality and the loss of virginity are grimly predictable. The audience will have seen them numerous times in other wedding comedies. Plenty of these disclosures should have devastating effects on the ceremony, but no one seems to care. Instead, this wacky modern family reunites in its eccentricity and dance together blissfully to Michael Bublé – a clichéd happy ending that one could tell was coming from the opening credits.
Our rating: **