Mother of the Bride Is Gorgeous, Empty Product Placement

Movies Reviews Netflix
Mother of the Bride Is Gorgeous, Empty Product Placement

You know when you check into a hotel and the default TV channel is the hotel promotion channel? Serene music plays as people eat delicious hotel food, workout without sweating in the glam hotel gym and get the best sleep of their lives in a luxurious hotel bed? The new Netflix movie Mother of the Bride is kind of like that, except with Brooke Shields, Benjamin Bratt, iCarly and the guy from One Tree Hill.

Yes there’s an overall plot which I will get to. I promise. But the 90 minutes of Mother of the Bride primarily play as one long product placement for Anantara Resorts, specifically their Layan-Phuket Resort and Mai Khao Phuket Villas in Thailand. The resorts are all name-checked in the film’s opening minutes, so at least the movie isn’t even attempting to be sneaky about it. And the properties look positively gorgeous on screen. I, too, would have immediately accepted an acting gig that would take me to such a beautiful and lavish locale. 

But now the plot! Mother of the Bride is Netflix’s latest attempt at getting a piece of the lucrative Hallmark Channel movie pie. Shields, who also serves as one of the movie’s executive producers,  is a delight as the title character Lana, a successful pioneer in genetic research, who is shocked to discover that her daughter Emma (Miranda Cosgrove) is returning from an internship in London engaged to RJ (Sean Teale). Emma is not going to get a job or go to grad school. Instead she is going to keep up with the lifestyle Instagram account she started when she was a college freshman. Now Discovery Resorts (the parent company of Anantara Resorts, naturally) is offering her a six-figure sponsorship to promote their brand on her Instagram account.

Despite Lana’s misgivings that being a social media influencer is an actual career choice, she wants to appear open-minded and goes along with this sudden development, heading off to Thailand. “I’m a very non-judgmental person,” she tells her daughter about RJ. “I’m sure I would like this man with initials instead of a name.”

All is well until RJ’s dad Will (Benjamin Bratt) arrives. See, it turns out that Lana and Will had a grand romance in college until Will unceremoniously broke Lana’s heart. “You better open your eyes because you are literally about to marry the son of Satan,” she tells Emma.  If all of this sounds a lot like George Clooney and Julia Roberts’ 2022 movie Ticket to Paradise, you’re not wrong. In that movie, which also involved a young woman getting married quickly to someone her parents didn’t know in a beautiful and lavish locale, the parents despised each other and united to try to break up the couple. Here Lana just wants to make sure her daughter is happy and making the right choice, while Will just wants to lean into his sexy, laid back charm. (Bratt has a brand and I definitely don’t hate it.)

Along the way we learn little tidbits. Lana’s husband died when Emma was eight. Will’s wife left him when RJ was two. Mother of the Bride deserves credit for putting two age-appropriate actors together as the movie’s main love story. Sadly that’s still a rarity in 2024, so credit where credit is due. This is Shields’ second Netflix movie following 2021’s A Castle for Christmas and being a romantic lead suits her.

Around the edges are Tasneem Roc, who is a hoot as the wedding planner from an extremely coiffed hell who insists on calling Lana “mama Winslow,” has sponsorships for everything (including atrocious bridesmaid’s dresses) and a military level agenda of marching orders. “Just so we’re clear I planned my wedding without a brand manager,” Lana tells her daughter. Rachel Harris has impeccable comic timing that can always be counted on, and she brings her A game as Emma’s Aunt Janice. Wilson Cruz and Michael McDonald don’t have a ton to do as Lana and Will’s college friends, while Chad Michael Murray, who has been in more than a few Hallmark movies, is charming as a doctor vying for Lana’s attention.

But the script by Robin Bernheim has more than a few holes. Bridesmaids and groomsmen literally have no lines. Entire plot points get left by the wayside. Should Emma be getting married this young? Is RJ, who loves fist bumps and high fives, the man for her? What about the Ocean Institute, the nonprofit that Emma’s whole wedding was going to help promote and support? Prickly turns of events, like Lana giving the happy couple an espresso maker and Will giving them a condo, are completely abandoned. Maybe everyone involved just spent a little too much time in the sun and lost focus.

Misunderstandings abound in this ultra-lite comedy of errors. Physical pratfalls (think groin area injuries) get a lot of screen time. But there are moments where Mother of the Bride digs a little deeper, especially when it comes to Lana and Emma’s relationship. What does it mean for a mother to let go of her daughter and watch her become an adult? How can a mother support her daughter even when she’s making choices she might not approve of? Cosgrove and Shields shine in these small moments and give a peak at what Mother of the Bride could have been. As it stands, Mother of the Bride is a pleasant enough way to spend your time…and perhaps begin planning your next vacation. 

Director: Mark Waters
Writer: Robin Bernheim
Starring: Brooke Shields, Miranda Cosgrove, Benjamin Bratt
Release Date: May 9, 2024 (Netflix) 

Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and a member of the Television Critics Association. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).

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