Wedding Crashers: Funny Comedy, Starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn

A high-concept film–divorce lawyers crash weddings to get laid–Wedding Crashers is a funny, often witty comedy with two human faces, those of the great comedians Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Rude, crude, and occasionally outrageous, it’s sort of American Pie for adults, the thirtysomething dating crowds.

The film is much wittier and cooler than Nora Ephron’s trivial and derivative comedy Bewitched, and blessedly, it lacks the bathroom humor of the Farrelly brothers. Wedding Crashers may turn out to be the most commercial comedy in a summer season marked by dark and scary movies, such as Batman Begins and War of the Worlds.

Technically speaking, the movie is a mess. As he has shown in his previous films (Shanghai Knights), David Dobkin has no sense of rhythm or pacing, which are so crucial for a comedy. At times, it feels as if Dobkin has finished his job at the casting process, choosing not to interfere with his actors. That the movie is at least 20 minutes too long and contains two unfunny characters tarnish, but doesn’t really damage, the comedy’s overall impact.

But despite some shortcomings, the comedy offers a major compensation. Viewers who like the eccentric Vince Vaughn but have been tired of seeing him play second bananas will get a kick out of watching this inventive actor play a lead and dominating almost every scene he is in.

Divorce mediators John Beckwith (Wilson) and Jeremy Grey (Vaughn) are business partners. They use their unique brand of negotiating to help couples realize that the end of their marriage is not to be blamed on each other, but should be blamed on the institution of marriage.

Quite unusually, John and Jeremy are also lifelong friends who share one unique hobby: Crashing weddings. Whatever the ethnicity of the wedding party–Jewish, Italian, Irish, Chinese, Hindu the duo always come up with clever back stories for suspicious and inquisitive guests. The picture opens with a montage that samples the racially diverse weddings attended by the ever-flexible lawyers.

Blessed with charm and savoir vivre, John and Jeremy are often the hit of every reception, where they strictly adhere to their proven -rules of wedding crashing to meet and pick up women aroused by the very thought of marriage. They are experts in the art of wedding crashing, abiding by dozens of rules, such as “make sure she’s single,” or “dance like you mean it,” or “if you can’t cry, fake it.”

During yet another successful season of toasting brides and grooms, Jeremy learns that the daughter of Treasury Secretary William Cleary (Christopher Walken) and his wife Kathleen (Jane Seymour) is getting married. The stature of the parents almost ensures that it’s going to be the most-talked about D. C. social event of the year.

Following their routines, after infiltrating the lavish affair, John and Jeremy quickly set their sights on bridesmaids Claire (Rachel McAdams) and Gloria (Isla Fisher) Cleary. With the sumptuous reception in full swing, Jeremy works his game plan to perfection in seducing Gloria. However, John’s flirtatious banter with Claire is impeded by her pompous, Ivy League boyfriend Sack (Bradley Cooper).

Having uncharacteristically fallen hard and fast for Claire, John convinces a resistant Jeremy to bend the crashing rules and accept an invitation for a weekend at the Cleary family compound. The movie’s second half turns into a hilarious-disastrous weekend party in the country, full of good intentions, honest and dishonest misunderstandings, wrong steps, and so on.

Indeed, once at the palatial estate, John and Jeremy endure a multitude of comical mishaps at the hands of the hysterically dysfunctional members of the Cleary family. But in the process, they also learn a few unexpected lessons about true love and relationships.

Steve Faber and Bob Fisher’s script is based on an original premise. On the surface, weddings are the ultimate in forced bliss, they are about bringing together families and friends to celebrate a couple’s love, but for most single attendees, these parties are equally notable for their open bar and the opportunity to meet new love/sex interests.

The core of the film, like that of American Pie, is softer and more humane, dealing with love. The two guys exhibit macho bravado and seem to be committed to their non-committal vows–until they meet the right girl and fall in love. The writers turn the high concept of crash wedding into a funny, occasionally witty and smart story. They create an almost self-enclosed world that’s funnier than simply a couple of guys crashing weddings. For a mainstream American comedy, the characters are older in age, though immature in their worldview and lifestyle.

The writers must have realized that they couldn’t sustain an entire film with wedding crashing, so they came up with the good idea of, what if one of the guys were to fall for a woman at one of the weddings. They follow these extreme characters through situations that some viewers might have thought about or might have done on a smaller scale. It’s an exaggerated, but relatable circumstance: Crashing a party that you’re not necessarily invited to.

The scripters have devised characters that are going through a mild midlife crisis, caught in a place where their lives are really affected by their choices. John is a man who’s really had enough with his lifestyle; he feels that he is not following his own bliss. John doesn’t realize this, of course, until he meets the woman of his dreams. Jeremy, on the other hand, lives more in the moment, steamrolling from one wedding to the next, one sexual encounter to another, without ever really looking back.

And just when it appears that the movie takes a strictly male POV, centering on perpetually horny but not young singles, the writers enlarge the scope to include some interesting female roles. Women are still secondary, but they get a more substantial treatment in the movie’s last chapters.

The key to the film’s success is that the characters remain likable and sympathetic throughout, and don’t turn too crude or predatorial. Being the life of the party is what attracts women to John and Jeremy, their appreciation of good food, their love of band music, their genuine joy in entertaining kids and dressing up in their suits.

The clash of the leads acting styleswith Wilson understated and underacting and Vaughn overacting and hystericalproduces some unexpectedly interesting results.

Some of the supporting roles are also well cast. The powerful and prominent Treasury Secretary, who’s the linchpin of the tale, is played by the brilliant and diverse Christopher Walken. Walken can easily intimidate and be scary, but he can be warm, too, as he has shown in Catch Me If You Can. His good sense of comedic timing creates unintended laughs that might not have been in the screenplay.

The two sisters are well-played by the beautiful Rachel McAdams (“The Notebook,” “Mean Girls”) as the classy and elegant Claire, and Isla Fisher, as Gloria. Claire has grown up in a world of privilege, but somehow has managed to stay grounded despite her eccentric family. She finds John charming because he doesn’t take himself so seriously, in sharp contrast to her blue-blooded fianc Sack, a member of the Lodge family, a pillar of old school East Coast money.

If John is at first intimidated by Claire, Jeremy is too successful in his seduction of Gloria, the youngest, most adventurous of the Cleary daughters. She becomes extremely attached very quickly, which really scares him because her father is the Treasury Secretary and his taxes haven’t been in order for years.

It’s love at first sight for the impressionable Gloria when she meets Jeremy, a real ladies
man who woos her with all sorts of romantic stories. Gloria is swept off her feet by his good looks and becomes a woman obsessed; she’s like a spoiled kid who has found the joy of a new toy. Fisher has one outr scene at a dinner table that outdoes Julie Christie giving a blowjob under a table at a political party in Shampoo.

But some of the secondary roles are poorly written and not well-acted. The naturally classy Jane Seymour, who has never played a vixen, seems uncomfortable as the secretary’s flirtatious wife and her big seduction scene with John is flat. Having been married for 30 years and faithful to two of her husbands, Kathleen is always looking for distraction, either with the bottle or with a young handsome man. At the wedding, the combination of champagne and the sight of John are more than she can possibly handle; she just has to have him.

The film’s weakest performance is given by newcomer Keir O’Donnell as Todd Cleary, the family’s tormented gay son. Todd is rebelling against his family, harboring some dark secrets. Todd has a crush on Jeremy and thinks they have a moment at the dinner table, which results in a compromising situation in the bedroom.

Also disappointing is Ellen Albertini Dow, as the family’s senior member, Grandma Cleary, a sharp-tongued woman whose diminutive size and old age is unceremoniously accompanied by poorly timed crass comments and crude behavior. As the head of this big Catholic, political family, she feels she is old enough to tell everybody off. While she blurts out the movie’s most profane comments, her scenes are simply not funny.

The scenes featuring Todd and Grandma Cleary could have been easily cut out or reduced, without jeopardizing the comedy’s integrity.The movie is too long: Excising half a dozen bad scenes would have reduced the running time to the optimal length of 90 minutes, ensuring that there are no dead or bland spots between the funny sequences.