I try not to watch trailers. A good one can leave you disappointed when every great beat in the film turns out to have already been leaked to the public. A bad one can keep you from seeing a good movie. Which means everything I knew about The Big Wedding
going in was on the poster. And as posters go, it's a horror show.
It's beige. That's the first problem. Everything is beige. Most of the clothes, the couch the cast sits on, Diane Keaton's hair. The title of the film is white against this beige, so that you can barely read what it says. And the fact that it's a uselessly generic title like The Big Wedding really should be enough to make you not care if you can read it or not. It's also one of those group photos where nobody was in the same room at the same time, everyone with wide open laughing mouths, shoved together after the fact. But back to Diane Keaton. She's in it. Diane Keaton is very rarely in funny movies these days. This is probably not her fault. I'm sure she just likes to work. And now she's in a family comedy with Robert De Niro. Let's take Silver Linings Playbook out of the equation for a minute and ask, again, when was the last time you saw Robert De Niro in a funny film? If you say the word "Focker" then that means you and I aren't friends.
But it gets worse, this poster. Katherine Heigl is well-represented. She's been an enemy of comedy from the moment she decided to improve on her supporting role in Knocked Up with the star-makery of 27 Dresses. And then there's Robin Williams, resuming his zany priest role, the one he apparently failed to fully eviscerate and corpse-hump in License to Wed (c'mon you remember that one -- it had Mandy Moore and that guy and there were those robot babies that squirted blue fake-poop from their mechanical anuses -- it was great). I think it bears repeating: ROBIN WILLIAMS IS A ZANY PRIEST AGAIN.
So this film arrives with not merely low expectations, it is the first movie of 2013 to feature a negative amount of expectations. Which is why I'm... pleased?... not sure if that's the right word... surprised or relieved, maybe, like finding out you get to be the front part of the human centipede... to report that this not-very-good wedding farce (plot-schmott: kids getting married, lies told to save parental feelings, sex sex sex and people being pushed off piers) is also not the worst film of all time. It's even occasionally funny.
It looks bad, of course, indifferently directed and shot. And there's very little to hold your attention to the screen except for a few of the performances. But the story -- translated from French into English and based on the film Mon frere se Marie -- is much more sexually free than you'd expect, licentiousness scrubbed clean but still allowed room to get politely busy behind closed doors. It's cute cunnilingus humor that'll make grandma giggle and the cast seems to be having a casually effortless good time swimming in the R-rated end of the pool. Williams is, thankfully, kept on a tight leash and, shock of shocks, Heigl is given a handful of lippy, mean lines that she handles in a winning, sarcastic-bitch manner, playing off Topher Grace's similarly caustic brother character. I want her to run with this persona, take her cues from Lisa Kudrow's knife-sharpness in 1999's The Opposite of Sex and go be the unlikable comedic presence she seems born to play. Next stop: doing it in a better film.