Don’t be fooled by the marketing campaign for The Big Wedding. The pastel-hued poster may look as sweet as a wedding cake—it’s even tiered—but the screwball comedy from writer-director Justin Zackham (scribe on The Bucket List) contains unexpected layers of salty language, bitter political incorrectness and pungent sex that your mother may not be aware of when she deems it appropriate for her movie group. It’s not. Seriously, Robert De Niro goes down on Susan Sarandon in the very first scene.
De Niro plays Don, a successful sculptor and Griffin family patriarch who broke up his marriage to Ellie (Diane Keaton) a decade ago to get with her BFF Bebe (Susan Sarandon). Ellie has traveled the world finding herself since then and has emerged an independent, self-possessed divorcée, determined to demonstrate to her ex-husband and kids that she’s moved on.
That fondant is scuffed, then scratched, then gouged, when their adopted son Alejandro (Ben Barnes), who’s marrying sweetheart Missy (Amanda Seyfried), asks Don and Ellie to pretend to still be married for the sake of his über-Catholic birth mother Madonna (Patricia Rae), who’s visiting the States from Colombia for the first time, never having learned of his adopted parents’ divorce. If that plot twist sounds thin to you, it is—a flimsy stand on which to balance a teetering dessert.
Meanwhile, Al’s lawyer sister, Lyla (Katherine Heigl), who we’re told can’t get pregnant, is feeling squeamish at the sight of babies then puking her guts out (guess why!), and his doctor brother, Jared (Topher Grace), suddenly decides to screw waiting for love and lose his virginity to his adopted brother’s hot birth sister Nuria (Ana Ayora). Toss in a couple of in-laws who are apparently racist—they never behave that way; we’re only told they are—and you’ve got a recipe for matrimonial disaster!
Zackham has assembled a dream cast for sure, particularly among the parental generation. Keaton and Sarandon are delightful together as old pals whose friendship transcends some old guy. Their adult responses to the realities of relationships and divorce are a refreshing respite amid all the histrionics. De Niro’s a big doofus by comparison, hardly deserving of either classy lady, while Rae is given little more to do than tsk-tsk and look judgmentally upon their shenanigans.
Because the trailer for the film makes it look as frilly and frothy as a wedding gown, The Big Wedding’s edgier aspects feel at odds at first, accents added for shock value rather than integral to the script. The story never quite gets over this awkward disjointedness, which isn’t to say these splashes of color aren’t enjoyable, welcome relief in yet another comedy about a wacky weekend wedding for wealthy WASPs.
Director: Justin Zackham
Writer: Justin Zackham
Starring: Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Diane Keaton, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Ben Barnes
Release Date: Apr. 26, 2013