(director: David Dobkin; screenwriters: Steve Faber/Bob Fisher; cinematographer: Julio Macat; editor: Mark Livolsi; music: Rolfe Kent; cast: Owen Wilson (John Beckwith), Vince Vaughn (Jeremy Klein), Christopher Walken (Secretary William Cleary), Rachel McAdams (Claire Cleary), Isla Fisher (Gloria Cleary), Jane Seymour (Kathleen Cleary), Larry Joe Campbell (Best Man), Keir O’Donnell (Gay Brother, Todd Cleary), Bradley Cooper (Sack Lodge), Will Ferrell (Chaz), Ellen Albertini Dow (Grandma Mary), Ron Canada (Randolph), Jenny Alden (Christina Cleary); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Peter Abrams/Robert L. Levy/Andrew Panay; New Line Cinema; 2005)

“Drags the setup scenario out for too long and loses its comical edge in the process.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Dave Dobkin (“Clay Pigeons”) directs a throwback film to the raucous comedies of the late 1970s and early 1980s like Animal House and Caddyshack. Not being a fan of those films, I’m likewise not a fan of this modern attempt at a screwball comedy that has two longtime bachelor friends and Washington divorce mediators, the carefree John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and the motormouth Jeremy Klein (Vince Vaughn), take pleasure in crashing weddings so they can score unescorted chicks, eat the good food and feel good about putting one over. The writers Steve Faber and Bob Fisher are helped by the uncredited authorship by Owen Wilson, who is responsible for writing the sappy ending which he claims was even sappier before he altered it. The zany comic antics work for around 60 minutes before the novelty of the plot wears thin and the profane comedy turns sour as the once so-called daring treatment of the crashers as kick-ass studs and charming unabashed liars undergoes a change of heart and the plot line moves them to become more sugary, apologetic and accepting of marriage as a sacred institution. They both fall in love and come to recognize that their previous behavior was irresponsible, if not downright sleazy. The sentimental safe ending ruins whatever edge the film once had. Its speechifying was hard to take for such a dumb disposable lighthearted empty romantic-comedy, as it wallowed in crass sentimentality and brought everything it valued in “tastelessness” down to a dull and unbelievable social acceptability– cleansing its previous easy-going roguish feel and boldness by sugar-coating the two con artists as merely timid souls who could never admit that marriage to a nice girl was what they always wanted.

The film is built around the charismatic duo crashing the wedding of the year, the one given by the well-connected Secretary of the Treasury William Cleary (Christopher Walken) for his oldest daughter Christina. The two amiable con men pose as distant relatives who are enterprising businessmen and hook up with two pretty sisters, the sweet socially conscious maid of honor Claire (Rachel McAdams) and the nympho maladjusted ditsy Gloria (Isla Fisher). It’s a Kennedy-like family who when examined closer are dysfunctional but remain loyal to each other. The problem with scoring Claire is that she already has a longtime boyfriend named Sack Lodge (Bradley Cooper), who also comes from a blueblood family and their marriage would please the Secretary as it would make it possible for their two powerful clans to unite. The problem for Jeremy is that he scores Gloria at the wedding when he takes her to the beach, but she then scares him off when she tells him he broke her cherry and begins chasing after him. Jeremy calls this a “Level 5 Clinger,” meaning that this girl is marriage-minded and it’s time for him to take a powder. These tricks, rituals and rules of the game Jeremy learned from his mentor Chaz (Will Farrell)–the master of all wedding crashers, who is now 40-year-old and lives with his elderly mother while still crashing weddings (even branching out to crashing funerals). But Jeremy can’t get his smitten pal to leave, as Gloria invites them to their Hyannis Port-like compound for a weekend of touch football, sailing and big family dinners. While there John plays it low-key and comes across as a sensitive suitor to Claire, while Sack proves to be an obnoxious sociopath with a vicious mean-streak that makes him over zealously competitive. The family members openly exhibit their dysfunctions as the Secretary’s unfaithful and oversexed wife (Jane Seymour) makes a play for John and wants him to fondle her breasts; Grandmother Mary (Ellen Albertini Dow) can be a sweet old lady but at times says the most inappropriate, bigoted and nastiest things; Gloria turns out not to be a virgin but a kinky sex freak; and the Secretary’s creepy son Todd (Keir O’Donnell) is a demented homosexual artist who mistakenly thinks Jeremy is interested in him.

One of the buddy film’s major problems is that it drags the setup scenario out for too long and loses its comical edge in the process. It also relies on too many old standby gags for its comedy fix from lashing out at homosexuality, pouring on its endless immature smutty sex talk even when it no longer shocks and staying too long with stale frat boy humor as its main comedy staple. The supporting cast failed to help much in the comedy antics, except for an animated kooky performance by Fisher, as Walken is asked to do too little, Cooper was never funny but an annoying character from the get-go, and McAdams is bland playing the part of the one sweet and so-called sane person in the whole wedding party. It’s the kind of tasteless film that the men can act boorish and get away with it if they are funny. When they stopped being funny and wanted to be taken seriously, the film became devalued and the crashers themselves crashed.

Wedding Crashers