The Big Wedding has something to offend everyone. Based on the little-seen French comedy Mon Frère Se Marie, Justin Zackham’s adaptation squanders the talents of its star-studded cast, paying lip service to the complexities of family life while spinning its narrative wheels like a mud-stuck truck, delivering stale platitudes via characters that have more in common with advertising mascots than actual human beings. Alejandro (Ben Barnes) and Missy (Amanda Seyfried) have known each other since grade school and, after a year of courting, are ready to tie the knot. Adopted at a young age by Don (Robert De Niro) and Ellie (Diane Keaton), Al has always stayed in touch with his biological mother, Madonna (Patricia Rae), a devout Catholic who vowed to never leave her native Colombia, but who’s made an exception out of love for her son. Terrified of offending her puritanical beliefs, Al convinces his adopted parents—more than a decade divorced—to resume their marriage for the wedding ceremony, and it takes more than a little suspension of disbelief to buy the fact that no one thought of this potential snafu until mere hours beforehand. Subplots involving infertility, alcoholism, adult virginity, and infidelity are haphazardly juggled against this background, with a dearth of comedic sensibility further underscoring film’s abject condescension.
An early scene in which a priest played by Robin Williams casually condemns unbaptized children to hell is indicative of the film’s whitewashed humor. The issues that divide us (as a nation, as a family, etc.) are trotted out for easy laughs, never examined past their red-button shock value. Worse yet are the intended guffaws milked from Missy’s unsavory parents, who can barely hide their horror at the prospect of having biracial grandchildren. The film utilizes this tension with a disconcerting lack of perspective, and while it’s important to recognize the virtues of tolerance and forgiveness within one’s family (and that bigots aren’t necessarily terrible people), The Big Wedding only incidentally addresses these ideas, contributing nothing beyond its own unimaginative opportunism. It doesn’t help that it’s also staggeringly unfunny (though the Travis Bickle-esque sunglasses that De Niro briefly sports are worth a chuckle), incapable of anything like buildup or payoff, so much so that the intended pre-ceremony climax passes as if it were mere exposition. For a movie ultimately about what freaks we all are behind the fronts we build for the sake of normalcy, the apathetically performed The Big Wedding couldn’t possibly be more square.