Divorced couple Don (Robert De Niro) and Ellie (Diane Keaton) are forced to play happily families when they discover that the birth mother of their adopted son, Alejandro (Ben Barnes), will be making the trip to America for his upcoming nuptials Not only does this alienate Don’s new partner Bebe (Susan Sarandon), but it also sets into motion a chain of events that ultimately forces the whole family – from the uptight Lyla (Katherine Heigl) to the 30-year-old virgin Jared (Topher Grace) – to confront a host of repressed emotions.
It’s made clear from the beginning that The Big Wedding is a film unworthy of its troubled existence (it’s gone through several incarnations over the years). The characters we’re introduced to are about as uninteresting and one-dimensional as they come. There’s nothing in them to warrant the full, undivided attention of the audience, rendering the various scenarios and dilemmas that unspool over the course of the short, yet nonetheless prolonged running time entirely perfunctory. And it never improves.
The script, written by Justin Zackham (who also directs), steals ideas from every known romantic comedy, bringing with it absolutely nothing new to the table, and regularly resorts to tired clichés and oft-used sex gags in a desperate attempt to garner laughs. It’s all painful to endure, and made none the easier by the fact that there’s nothing in here that resembles real life, not the family’s unaccountable wealth, nor the unrealistic sheen that’s applied by Zackham’s direction and Jonathan Brown’s airy, rosy cinematography.
Perhaps the worst thing about The Big Wedding, however, is how badly it treats its loyal cast. De Niro and Sarandon may escape relatively uncorrupted in the grand scheme of things, but the likes of Keaton, Barnes, Grace and Amanda Seyfried as Alejandro’s bride-to-be Missy are taken for a ride by their respective narratives and the dialogue their forced to utter. It’s not even worth mentioning Heigl who, after this film, is unlikely to ever be taken seriously again, not that she’s had the most illustrious of careers as it is.
It’s difficult to see how anyone could benefit from letting The Big Wedding into their lives. It has absolutely nothing to offer, and even advocates racism. If this is the what happens when you scrape the barrel until there’s nothing left, then surely the comedies that are left to come this year will only get better and better. Let’s hope so anyway, because The Big Wedding has left the brain cells scorched, and is eclipsed only by Movie 43, another film that relied on big names to compensate for its emptiness.