Dialog is good enough to carry ‘The Big Wedding’

By Gary Clift

The new multi-star screen comedy “The Big Wedding” is the American version of a 2006 French movie about a Swiss family that years ago adopted a Vietnamese boy.

In our version, it is an American family that years ago adopted a Colombian boy. But the smugness of the original wasn’t completely edited out in the translation.

Wasn’t it noble of them to take the South American boy from his mother and bring him into the U.S., where he could be trained to join the elite? Now he is about to be married to a neighbor girl with bourgeois parents we are supposed to dislike. And look! The rich guys are bringing in Alejandro’s biological mother and sister to attend the Roman Catholic ceremony.

Ah, the wedding picture. We usually see a couple of these every year. There is usually some friction between family members and friends. The movies are always romantic comedies. And the ceremony never goes off as planned.

As it happens, “The Big Wedding” is also more of a stage play than it is a film. Swimming in the lake aside, there isn’t anything in it that couldn’t happen under a proscenium arch. Which means the entertainment is very much dependent on its dialog.

The good news is that the dialog, written by director Justin Zackman, is all right. He wrote “The Bucket List.” He knows how to entertain a film audience.

And then there is the cast to consider. “The Big Wedding” features Robert DeNiro, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Amanda Seifried (in a surprisingly small part, as the bride), Katherine Heigel, Topher Grace, Robin Williams (as the priest, a part he’s played in a wedding picture before), and several dependable journeymen.

DeNiro plays Dad, a sculptor by profession. He lives outside New York City in a house he built with Mom (Keaton), the world traveler. They are long divorced. He has been romancing her former best pal, caterer Bebe (Sarandon). With the supposedly devout and ominously judgmental biologic ma coming to stay, Mom and Dad have to pretend the divorce never happened and Bebe has to move out for a bit.

See, foreigners cling to old moral codes and religious superstitions and would be shocked if they saw the real cosmopolitan ways of wealthy Americans.

Daughter Lyla (Heigel) is ill, hates her father for having broken up their happy home, and is separated from her own husband. Son Jared (Grace) is a doctor and a thirty-year-old virgin, apparently famously. Alejandro’s biological sister immediately offers to have sex with him.

And then Alejandro himself is having a little trouble with the judgmental priest. Besides, his in-laws to-be are racist yahoos. Pa is in trouble with the government for financial crimes. Ma, in a reverse that explodes the screenplay’s own self-satisfied bias, may actually prefer sex with women to sex with men.

From there the plot just about writes itself. How can we get all these people properly and romantically disposed of? The audience in the theater during the showing I attended laughed hardest while biologic sis was rubbing Jared under the cover of the table cloth during the rehearsal dinner.

To “The Big Wedding’s” credit, it doesn’t try to jerk any tears. The happy ending is more or less assured from early on by the smirk the film wears on its face. Oh, yeah. We’re all so superior that in order to get the foreigners on our level, we have to make them hypocrites who only pretend to be stiffly moral. See there! We are all alike after all.

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