Photo: USA TODAY/Barry Wetcher, Lionsgate.
By Claudia Puig, USA TODAY
It might take a glass of champagne or two to get through The Big Wedding.
The nuptials of this affluent blended family - unlike any actual collection of humans on earth - are hardly a cause for celebration.
The cobbled-together story (* * out of four; rated R; opens Friday nationwide) is forced, formulaic and never believable. It's a particularly unholy combination.
While the movie's contrivances are occasionally mitigated by a few laugh lines from Robin Williams as a recovering alcoholic Catholic priest and Robert De Niro as a randy sculptor, most of the cast is playing versions of characters they've played before.
Diane Keaton is Ellie, the daffy, adventurous ex-wife of Don (De Niro). Susan Sarandon is Bebe, Don's daffy, adventurous girlfriend and Ellie's best friend.
Don and Ellie have three grown children. The youngest, who was adopted from Colombia, is getting married. But the vows can't be made without a lot of clumsily executed and farcical shenanigans.
There are a few comic zingers in the dialogue by writer/director Justin Zackham (who wrote The Bucket List), but the slapstick physical humor falls completely flat.
The all-star cast may have simply wanted to work together in scenic surroundings. But it's unclear why the filmmakers cast a British actor, Ben Barnes, to play a Colombian and speak awkward Spanish, when there are plenty of good Latino actors around.
Though most everyone rolls their eyes about Don, the patriarch of the successful but neurotic Griffin family, they all get along remarkably well. The women can't stop paying each other compliments, and the kids accept Bebe as a de facto stepmom.
Those kids are Alejandro (Barnes), the impending groom; Lyla (Katherine Heigl), a lawyer who obsessively checks her phone for messages from the boyfriend she dumped; and Jared (Topher Grace), a doctor and 30-year-old virgin looking for love.
Now in his 20s, Alejandro was given up for adoption as a child in Colombia by his mother, Madonna (Patricia Rae), who wanted him to grow up with the best opportunities. But when she shows up for the wedding, she brings along her 20-year-old daughter, Nuria (Ana Ayora), who speaks perfect English and seems to have been well-educated in her homeland.
In any event, Alejandro is now set to marry Missy (Amanda Seyfried, in a role that's essentially the exuberant bride she played in Mamma Mia!). Missy's parents, Muffin (Christine Ebersole) and Barry (David Rasche), are moronic social climbers who worry about having "beige" children. These closed-minded racists are referred to as good friends of the super-liberal Griffins, though it's unlikely that could occur in the real world. But then, little that happens here bears resemblance to reality.
To make matters more far-fetched, the ultra-religious Madonna doesn't approve of divorce, so exes Don and Ellie agree to pretend they are still husband and wife so as not to upset her. But Zackham didn't even bother to keep the mother's ultra-conservative character consistent. One minute she sternly insists on traditional values, the next she's all hot, bothered and envious at the sounds of noisy lovemaking.
The Big Wedding is a sloppy affair, with only partially formed characters and ridiculous scenarios that strain credulity and patience.