Oscar Wilde once said that, “Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.” Don Griffin (Robert DeNiro), in The Big Wedding, rapidly shoots back, “Yeah, but wasn’t Oscar Wilde diddling altar boys?” He doesn’t even wait to hear the other half—”Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.” As a man trapped between his ex-wife, Ellie (Diane Keaton), and his current long-term-live-in-girlfriend, Bebe McBride (Susan Sarandon), waiting to hear the latter half of the adage might have been useful.
If that sounds like an all-star cast, that’s because it is. But like the off-color altar boy joke, something about The Big Wedding just feels wrong. The plot concerns itself with an adopted son whose Catholic birth mother visits from Colombia for his wedding. They make the nonsensical choice to hide his parents’ divorce, and Bebe runs off in a huff—only to reappear later as the reception’s caterer. Further problems arise when Don jumps back into bed with his ex-wife. Various affairs are discovered between various parties, including that between the virginal Jared Griffin (Topher Grace), a 30-year-old gynecologist intending to save himself for marriage, and his adopted brother’s sister, whom we see skinny-dipping within 3 minutes of her arrival.
It’s extremely distasteful without being at all funny—though I must confess that I laughed once, at a line of Diane Keaton’s. Father Monighan (Robin Williams) says that “there are multiple kinds of love.” She replies, “There are?” with all the genuine surprise of an amnesiac lobotomy patient.
The film even includes a retread of The Wedding Crashers’ “handjob-under-the-table” scene. Except this time Topher Grace gets caught by his own mother (again Diane Keaton) at the rehearsal dinner, and it doesn’t really seem like a big deal. Somehow. The whole film feels improperly stitched together—which could owe to the script, the direction, the editing, or the actors’ haphazard characterizations. But probably to all of the above.
Much of the blame naturally falls on Writer/Director Justin Zackham, who adapted the film from Mon Frère Se Marie (2006). The plot might have made more sense in a French context, but here the interplay between hard-line Catholicism, casual affairs, and even more casual racism, seems culturally out-of-touch at best, and horribly offensive at worst. Like Jared, saving himself for love, yet rapidly and single-mindedly chasing the first piece of tail he sees, no one has any values that they stick to for more than five minutes of screen time.
I would be surprised and appalled if The Big Wedding isn’t the worst theatrically released film of the year. And now: a moment of silence for Robert DeNiro and Diane Keaton, who, in their long and storied careers, have made it from The Godfather Part II, to this.