A to Z Challenge – W is for Wedding Crashers

wedding-crashersLately, it seems that most studios are pushing broad PG-13 movies in the hopes of appealing to the widest possible audience. While you can’t blame them (too much) for wanting to make money, the problem with this plan is that it usually results in them hacking an R-rated movie to pieces in order to get the coveted PG-13 rating. This typically results in a sub-par product that is not nearly as bitingly funny as it could’ve been. Sometimes it’s okay to play it safe, but usually in order to make it big, you’ve got to take a risk.

Thankfully, Wedding Crashers embraces its R rating, and strikes that perfect balance: It doesn’t go for the gratuitous and unnecessary, but stays comfortably raunchy. Although it has a couple of montages that go on for a wee bit too long (the bike ride to the beach springs to mind) and suffers from the clichés brought on by the inevitable reveal, it’s still the funniest movie I’ve seen all year. And when I say “funniest,” I mean that if you have any sort of sense of humor, you won’t be able to breathe for the first two hours.

John (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) are best friends, divorce mediators, and professional wedding crashers, meaning they go to weddings and use the atmosphere and alcohol to bed willing bridesmaids. They crash the biggest wedding of the year – that of Treasury Secretary William Cleary’s (Christopher Walken) daughter – and John falls hard for one of Cleary’s other daughters, Claire (Rachel McAdams).

Jeremy, meanwhile, attracts daughter #3, Gloria (Isla Fisher), and is in over his head before the reception ends. Despite Jeremy’s frantic attempts to get John to leave, the two “cousins” accept an invitation to the family’s beach house so John can attempt to woo Claire away from her ultra-competitive jerk of a boyfriend.

As you can imagine, hijinks ensue.

Said “hijinks” include a quail hunt, a “touch” football game, an extremely interesting dinner involving a vocally racist grandmother, gay bondage, regular bondage, attempted nursing, and a nude painting.

This movie is proof that Vince Vaughn is, to put it mildly, a genius. His humor comes more from biting sarcasm rather than physical comedy (although there’s plenty of that, too), and it is best delivered at the same speed as attained by an Indy 500 car. His mile-a-minute bit on why he hates dating near the beginning of the movie is gut-busting because it’s so damn true, and that’s what got me hooked on the movie.

His character Jeremy is the crazier of the two bachelors, and thus the more interesting. He is bound and determined to continue the legacy of wedding crashing that they’ve inherited for as long as they can.

Jeremy is also the one who gets the raw end of the deal once they get to the beach house: while John tries to get Claire’s attention and make her fall for him, Jeremy is the one getting tackled by her boyfriend, then “nursed” by the slightly psycho sister who now proclaims to be in love with him. The only thing keeping him at that house is his friendship with John. (How good of a friend are you?)

Owen Wilson plays the straight (well, straighter) man. John is the slightly more sensitive of the two, the one who realizes that the two men can’t continue their frat guy shenanigans forever, but is still going to have a good time while it lasts.

He provides the “serious” plot for the movie, with his attempts to get with the single sane member of the Cleary clan. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his share of interesting adventures, though, especially with Claire’s horny mom (a hilarious Jane Seymour) trying to get some action.

Christopher Walken is one of the few character actors whose name on the front of a DVD box will get most people I know to rent a movie, and he plays a great powerful father. He likes John but is petrifying to Jeremy, and one would think that Daddy would be the biggest hurdle to getting with any one of the Cleary daughters.

Another (surprisingly welcome) cameo comes in the form of Will Ferrell, and even though he’s in serious danger of career overkill, he’s at his best when he’s acting like a complete nut, and he’s nutty here indeed.

However, the standout of the cast is relative newcomer Isla Fisher, the actress who plays Gloria. She’s a few cards short of a full deck, and is more than a match for the commitment-phobic Jeremy. The temper tantrum she throws to get her father’s permission for the “cousins” to come to the beach house is classic. Something about a grown woman holding her breath and stomping her feet, while in a formal dress, is comical, to put it mildly.

Gloria seems to have no boundaries, and will stop at nothing in her attempts to bed Jeremy once they get to the beach house. She’s alternately intriguing and terrifying, and it’s hard to decide if she’s sexy or just a lunatic like the rest of the family.

The one thing I hate about these types of comedies are the reveals, because every one is exactly the same. An antagonist gets a feeling that our leads are not what they say, and goes about searching for proof. Then, proof is given at a very inopportune moment, and our lead(s) must ‘fess up or let the antagonist do it for them.

This inevitably results in hurt feelings and a major rift, just in time to provide the major obstacle for the final half of the movie. Of course, that usually leads to a zany and improbable plan to get the love interest’s attention, and then shower them with a clichéd profession of true love.

Gag me with a spoon. Wedding Crashers, naturally, has this reveal and many of the clichés that go along with it, but fortunately it also has Vince Vaughn to lighten the mood and a long-overdue punching after the profession of love. So, you win some, you lose some.

Wedding Crashers is proof that if you want to make something funny, you shouldn’t play it safe. It’s just some good, clean, R-rated fun. Grandparents and young children, beware.

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies. This is one of the reviews I originally wrote during that time.

The Barenaked Archives: Domino

It’s very rare that a movie practically hands me the words to describe it on a silver platter. About halfway through Domino, Mena Suvari’s character, a meek secretary for Christopher Walken’s TV producer, tells the bounty hunters to talk to her boss quickly because he has the attention span of a “ferret on crystal meth.”
This ferret and his drug addiction were apparently responsible for the movie’s cinematography: shaky cameras, quick edits, funky lighting, and close-ups so extreme you could count the pores on a person’s face. You can sit there till you’re blue in the face and say it’s a stylistic choice, meant to make the movie grittier and more realistic. I say it’s distracting and gives me a headache.

In fact, the cinematography so got on my nerves that it nearly made me miss the movie. Not that Domino was really anything to write home about in the first place.

Proclaiming to be “based on a true story (sort of),” Domino gives us an account of Domino Harvey, the daughter of actor Laurence Harvey and a model who became a bounty hunter. It’s told in flashback, as Domino (Keira Knightley) is interrogated by an FBI agent (Lucy Liu) hoping to find the whereabouts of $10 million that Domino’s team was responsible for recovering.

It’s obvious from the trailers and the extra media the studio has released (the lap dance shots, anyone?) that Keira Knightley is their biggest draw. She’s sexy, she’s a bounty hunter, and she’s what’s most appealing to the college guys they’re hoping to get in to the theaters this weekend.

Knightley does a serviceable job (nothing really outstanding), but they focus much more on the sex appeal than the bounty-hunting part of the job. That’s the only way to explain the mescaline-induced sex scene about three-quarters of the way through the movie that apparently serves no purpose other than to showcase Keira Knightley’s boobs.

Her voiceover is also hit-and-miss. Voiceovers are a dicey trick anyway, because some people always love them while others will always hate them. Occasionally Domino gets some good points in on the voiceover, but more often than not they take one phrase (most memorable: “Heads you live, tails you die. Fifty-fifty chance.”) and repeat it roughly eight million times, which becomes very annoying and the phrase loses its punch.

The other major draws (whether the studio knows it or not) are Mickey Rourke and Christopher Walken. Rourke has been doing pretty well since his scene-stealing turn as Marv in this spring’s Sin City, and here he gets to play another badass: bounty hunter Ed Moseley, Domino’s mentor (of sorts). Ed’s not what you’d call a very moral guy, but he’s good at what he does.

As I’ve said before, Christopher Walken’s name on a poster will get most guys I know to go see a movie, no matter the subject. He’s the “ferret on crystal meth,” a reality TV producer who wants a camera crew to follow Domino, Ed, and their other teammate Choco around as they bust the bad guys. Of course, he’s concerned more with ratings than with anything else. Sadly, he’s not in the movie much.

The movie just wound up being disappointing. You walk in expecting a possibly cool story about a team of bounty hunters taking down fugitives in California, and walk out having seen a team of bounty hunters spend most of their time chasing around $10 million, as told in flashback by the one who got captured. It may be worth checking out on DVD, but unless you are really dying to see Keira Knightley’s boobs, you can probably skip it.