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Long divorced, Don (Robert De Niro) and Ellie (Diane Keaton) pretend they’re still married at their son’s wedding. (Barry Wetcher)
Long divorced, Don (Robert De Niro) and Ellie (Diane Keaton) pretend they’re still married at their son’s wedding. (Barry Wetcher)

REVIEW

The Big Wedding: Keaton and De Niro film more like my big fat formulaic wedding Add to ...

  • Directed by Justin Zackham
  • Written by Justin Zackham
  • Starring Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace
  • Classification 14A
  • Genre comedy
  • Year 2013
  • Country USA
  • Language English

Maybe, on the verdant campus of some less exalted university, a film prof hard up for a lecture is looking to devote a class to the study of The Hollywood Formula Flick. If so, The Big Wedding would be my humble suggestion – it’s just such a shining example of a dull studio comedy. So let’s make like the prof and dissect the damn thing.

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Casting

Be sure to have a cross-generational assortment of names to maximize audience appeal. Here, suiting up for the older crowd are Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro and Susan Sarandon – the first is a regular habitué of this formulaic schtick; the second, sadly, is becoming so; and Sarandon might have been keen for the paycheque. Sprinkled in for the younger set are Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace and Amanda Seyfried. Since they all keep their clothes on, it’s essential to recruit a curvaceous brunette who does not – Ana Ayora by name but by profession, at least in this case, the token eye-candy, guaranteed to promote male ogling across the chronological spectrum.

Setting

A country mansion in Connecticut, a big white house where big white rich folks live, where the backyard pool glistens blue and the adjoining lake sparkles green and where the spacious grounds offer ample room to set up the big tents for the big wedding. The house, of course, is a character unto itself, a different type of eye-candy but also there to admire and perhaps even lust after.

Premise

Writer/director Justin Zackham claims to have borrowed the premise from a Franco-Swiss film, although that sounds like so much posturing to these cynical ears. It’s a lot more generic than that. For reasons that defy logic, a divorced couple (Keaton and De Niro) must pretend they’re married in order to maintain appearances during the wedding. Why? Oh, so confusion and hilarity can ensue. Feel free to correct me, but it seems that exact premise has been used in countless forgettable Hollywood comedies, although, understandably, I’ve forgotten which ones.

Comedy

Two basic brands here. First, the just plain dumb kind. There is, as you will recall, a lake. Into this lake a dock extends. And from that dock someone – preferably a stuffy someone elaborately over-dressed – must fall, splash, into the water. Someone does.

Second, the sexy dumb kind. There is also a pool. Into that pool, to the dismay of the stuffed shirts, someone must skinny-dip. If you guessed the eye-candy, skip the rest of the class and head straight to grad school.

Drama

To humanize all this antic funny business, some poor actor must play the troubled soul. That would be Heigl, as the daughter of Big Daddy De Niro. Her marriage is rocky and she whines a lot and, oops, she’s carrying around a secret. Now if you can guess that secret, skip this class and grad school and book an immediate flight to Tinseltown – a lucrative writing job awaits you.

Cameo

It comes courtesy of Robin Williams, who wears a stiff white collar around his neck and a perpetual smirk on his face. The collar tells us he’s a priest; the smirk tell us he’s trapped in a dull studio comedy. Again. So are we. Again. Hell has another circle and it even bears a rating – two paltry stars endlessly chasing each other.

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