[Editor's Note: Poster Lab is your weekly dose of movie poster dissection, wherein the House examines the pluses, minuses, and in-betweens of the poster design(s) for a buzzworthy film.]
It would appear that one of the biggest challenges facing movies with huge, starry casts is getting all the actors together to shoot the poster image. Like New Year's Eve before it, the treacly-looking ensemble comedy The Big Wedding comes with a one-sheet whose pretty faces couldn't look more disparate. The designers thankfully avoided the dreaded grid approach, but one wonders if a paper-doll Photoshop assemblage is even worse. As the central couple, whose pre-marriage plight involves conflicts too tired and dull to mention, Amanda Seyfried and Ben Barnes are perhaps the only two actors who genuinely seem to have been photographed together. A case could also be made for Susan Sarandon and Robert De Niro (who, like their younger costars, have the credibility factor of joined hands), but there's still something vexingly posed, airbrushed, and artificial about their shared moment, as if even the laughs were digitally grafted.
Everyone else may just as well be on another planet, especially Diane Keaton, whose halfhearted smile and overall bemused awkwardness support the notion that she's in fact prepping for her latest L'Oréal Paris ad. The one star whose directional gaze seems appropriate is Christine Ebersole, who offers an uncomfortable sneer while eyeing up the crackpots to her left. Also the only actor to not receive billing, Ebersole almost looks relieved to have been kept at a certain remove, and she plays viewer surrogate as she bitingly judges the mess in her midst.
This will be one of the worst film posters of 2012, its slipshod mishmash of bankable celebrities directly reflective of these all-star products' contempt for viewer intelligence. No amount of pearly, Nancy Meyers-style touches can deflect the image's icky sense of half-assed manipulation, which inevitably forecasts what's to come from the film itself. If the gang at Lionsgate thinks you'll accept that Katherine Heigl is in fact reacting to Topher Grace's jokes, or that Robin Williams actually donned his Sunday robes specifically for this photoshoot, then who's to say they don't expect you to buy a boatload of fakery in the movie proper? The Big Wedding is written and directed by Justin Zackham, who previously penned and produced Rob Reiner's The Bucket List. Given the way his new effort is marketed, what was once a dollop of phony sentiment from the filmmaker will now be smeared about like cake icing.
Unfortunately, the poster finally registers as yet another sounding of De Niro's sellout alarm, presenting his jokery, drama-face cackle as a kind of knife-twisting centerpiece. You know you've plummeted from grace when your presence is as much a red flag as that of Katherine Heigl, who has the edge anyway considering she's never had any comparable clout to lose. No doubt armed with the notion/excuse that he's a veteran sowing his oats rather than resting on his laurels, De Niro steamrolls from one unchallenging trifle to the next, as if merely keeping his name on the marquee is the same thing as being a working actor. Not too many rungs up are folks like Keaton and Williams, who, despite the sure lack of scripts for actors of a certain age, similarly cruise along in various stages of self-parody, however beloved their respective personas may be. (Honestly, how many times now has Williams portrayed a priest with goofy inflections?) This poster signifies more than a messy, A-List comedy made to make a buck; it represents just how much of Hollywood can operate on presumptuous cruise control, from marketers and studio execs to actors and actresses.