Thursday, June 12, 2008

Between True Love and Being Played: Wedding Crashers (2005)

Two wedding crashers, John (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) operate on the assumption that weddings excite women with the presence of true love, what John ironically calls the “soul’s recognition of its counterpoint.” Living in Washington DC, they work as divorce lawyers, but when wedding season rolls around, they adopt different personae depending on the ethnicity of the wedding parties, practice many pick up lines, and bed as many women as possible. The director David Dobkin conveys the fun of their exploits by intercutting between several wedding parties that build to one climactic sequence where John and Jeremy deliriously dance to “Shout,” pop open champagne bottles, and jump on various topless women in various bedrooms.

Vince Vaughn has developed a rapid fire comic delivery that keeps one off balance trying to trace the speed of his thoughts, and Owen Wilson plays the quintessential likable buddy with his blond locks, dazed look, and bent nose. For awhile Wedding Crashers moves from one hilarious verbal riff to another: “We lost a lot of good men up there” serves to describe their bogus association with Mount Everest, the French Foreign Legion, and the New York Yankees, and no one seems to care that the biggest frauds are also making themselves the most noticeable in the wedding party.

Once the opening premise passes, however, the film becomes an uneasy blend between a Farrelly brothers-style gross out comedy (as in There’s Something about Mary) and a more earnest romantic comedy such as Four Weddings and a Funeral. Disillusioned with one night stands, Wilson’s character starts to burn out on his own BS, but Jeremy convinces him to go to one more wedding, that of the daughter of treasury secretary William Cleary (Christopher Walken). They both manage to ingratiate themselves with Cleary’s other two daughters Gloria and Claire, to the extent that Cleary invites them to join the family at their estate afterwards. The younger sister Gloria (Isla Fisher) humorously proves to be what Jeremy calls a “stage 5 schizo, off the reservation,” in her clinging obsessive interest in him. Meanwhile, John has fallen in love with Claire (Rachel McAdams), so he insists that his friend plays along. It turns out that Christopher Walken presides over a menagerie of freaky WASPish types which include a creepy gay artist son who does a close imitation of Crispin Glover, an elderly mother who shouts out anti-gay diatribes, and a wife, played by Jane Seymour eager to have John feel her newly “done” breasts.

The film stays funny in spots (at one point it even lifts gags from Bugs Bunny cartoons as the men go quail hunting), but Owen Wilson’s serious and rather formulaic romance with Claire rubs against the implausibility and the broad slapstick of the Kennedy-esque Cleary family hi-jinks. I kept thinking that Rachel McAdams had a much more wickedly fun role as the blonde teen queen of Mean Girls. This time, she plays a simpler, duller rich girl who needs to realize that her boyfriend is a Nazi as Owen Wilson pines for her. So we get many shots of Rachel McAdams looking wistful and lonesome on her dad’s yacht, Rachel and Owen almost going to see each other in their estate bedrooms, and Rachel and Owen reprising the idyllic bicycle scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

For a film that begins with the fast-talking con-man principles of two heartless womanizers, it sure caves into believing in true love quickly, and there’s the added hypocrisy of a movie that both mocks the rich powerful family and celebrates those lucky enough to marry into it. When it verbally runs circles around sex, Wedding Crashers works, but not so much when it starts to believe its romantic hogwash.

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