Wedding flicks need humor, heart to succeed

Published: Thursday, January 12, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 at 8:46 p.m.


Rewind these

  • Wedding Crashers EE (two Es)
  • American Wedding EEE (three Es)
  • The Wedding Singer EEE (three Es) NATE'S KEY:
  • 4 "E"s: Tremendous (best of the bunch)
  • 3 "E"s: Superior
  • 2 "E's: Fair (it's been done better)
  • 1"E": Avoid (save your money)

  • There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of weddings in the movies over the years. We all have our favorites. Some of mine include "Kill Bill," where the ceremony is interrupted by a strike team that murders everyone involved.
    "Sixteen Candles" had a memorable wedding, with a bride whacked out of her skull on pain medication. Who could forget the evil Prince Humperdink's unholy union with Buttercup in "The Princess Bride?"
    And perhaps my favorite wedding comes in "Flash Gordon," as the mighty Ming the Merciless weds Dale Arden. The vows read "Do you take this earthling to be your empress of the hour? Do you promise to use her as you will? Not to blast her into space... until such time as you grow weary of her?"
    I'm a wedding veteran - featured in two, served in a dozen others. And I tell you, Ming's vows are the only ones that get me choked up.
    "Wedding Crashers" is a romantic comedy that puts a new spin on fancy movie weddings. Two ne'er-do-wells (Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn) spend their weekends assuming false names and crashing weddings. Following a set of rules passed down from the master of crashing weddings, these guys indulge in free drinks and food, and use the romantic atmosphere to seduce women.
    It's a good scam, and they are masters of their craft. They blend into families of all ethnicities, dance and sing, and always take a drop-dead gorgeous woman home with them, even if they don't remember her name.
    At the "wedding of the century," Wilson falls in love with the daughter of a powerful politician. This leads to he and his partner spending a weekend with the rich, crazy family, getting into all sorts of misadventures. And, of course, Wilson is lying to his beloved every step of the way, because they always use fake names and identities at weddings.
    And so it goes, mixing ribald humor and awkward sexual situations with sappy faux-romantic sentiment. "Wedding Crashers" is a decent movie; it has a few laughs here and there, mostly from smarmy Vince Vaughn zingers. But it's not great, and let me tell you why.
    Having funny jokes is all it takes to get laughs. But to make a good comic film, there needs to be something that ties the jokes together and makes the film more than just a series of gags. For example, the recent "40 Year-Old Virgin" gave us a dopey but sympathetic character who most people could relate to (even if they had to think back decades to their awkward years). The jokes were good, but the story of the virgin's struggle was what made the movie a classic.
    "Wedding Crashers," on the other hand, does not have one person whom I can relate to. The male leads, while charming, are both pathological liars who deceive women just long enough to have sex with them. They get wrapped up with some insanely rich people, and keep lying and lying and lying to keep the movie going.
    Usually, I am a big fan of both Wilson and Vaughn. But at no point could I sympathize with them, or anyone else in this movie. There is no tangible connection between this story and any reality I have been a part of (during my college years, there were several). And, because there was no one to sympathize with, the film never becomes engaging.
    "American Wedding" is a movie with humor just as risque as "Crashers," but with much more sympathy and heart. Our hero is the ever-bumbling Jim, who this time around is trying to wed his true love and give her the wedding of her dreams.
    You remember Jim. He's the guy who had sex with the pie in "American Pie" and got caught on the roof with his hand Krazy-glued to his huevos in "American Pie 2." Played by Jason Biggs as a bumbling young Ben Stiller, Jim is a good guy who somehow ends up in the most humiliating situations.
    And there is plenty of humiliation to go around in this movie. Therein lies the problem - after all the shenanigans he has been through, Jim should be more careful. I only have so much sympathy, you know, and after three movies, Jim's constant embarrassment gets a little tiresome.
    But honestly, "American Wedding" is much better than it should be. There are several memorable scenes, most notably a dance-off in a gay nightclub, featuring Sean William Scott as Stifler, and the horrible, hilarious way Jim ruins his wedding cake. This kid is dangerous around pastries. I would hate to see what he would do to the "Gingerdead Man."
    The cast is cute and mildly interesting. There is plenty of raunch and vulgarity, but beneath all that, "Wedding" is an optimistic, fun little movie. Scott really steals the show as the foul-mouthed Stifler, and Eugene Levy is as funny as he always is.
    On a much less vulgar note, there is "The Wedding Singer," a surprisingly sweet and tame comedy from Adam Sandler. Set in the retro-glamorized 1980s with a soundtrack and hairstyles to match, Sandler stars as a cheesy wedding singer who falls for the engaged Drew Barrymore.
    It's pretty much a standard, by-the-number cornball rom-com, but if you like that sort of thing, then you will love this movie. There are a few funny moments, and Steve Buscemi's cameo as a drunken heckler is a thing of beauty. Sandler dials down his usual toilet humor and mindless fisticuffs for a goofy, dorky role that shows (in a similar, if dumber, fashion to "Punch Drunk Love") he can play a nice guy.
    In general, I think weddings are a better source for horror movies than comedies.
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