You might well ask why I would expend my precious reservoir of social energy on a film that screamed RENTAL! in a high-pitched, feminine voice.
Your curiosity is legitimate, dear friend!
One, Owen Wilson is a devilishly likable fellow who is in plenty of bad movies, but never mails in a bad performance.
Two, Vince Vaughn still has some money left in the bank from my favorite comedy of the past few years, Dodgeball.
Three, I was feeling mellow after a fine meal of seared Ahi, and the dinner guests were insistent.
So off we went!
With my 'mainstream Hollywood release' cap firmly in place, I can give it a conditional thumb's up. The first 3/4ths of the film were ribald good fun, although the long multi-wedding montage's reach exceeded it's grasp by a good bit.
But I got everything out of it I expected- Owen and Vince have great chemistry, Vince can sell a scene with a glance, or by stumbling over a word in his delivery, and Owen is hard to beat for offbeat charm and charisma when he's got a full head of steam. There is some good supporting work too, and if the characters are underdeveloped and their motivations somewhat opaque, well, I've already mentioned my mainstream Hollywood release cap, right?
The problem (and it is a Hollywood epidemic, crossing all genres) was the third act. The souffle collapsed the minute they pinned Owen to his mark on a beach and had him deliver a heartfelt speech to the woman he's fallen for.
Minus his goofy physical charm and wiseass delivery, he's just a guy with a really weird nose.
Framing and lighting him like Robert Redford circa The Way We Were isn't doing him or the audience any favors.
There were few moments of genuine levity from that point on (one involved a brilliant uncredited cameo by one of my favorite comedians, who shall remain nameless on the off chance someone actually sees this in the theater) as the filmmakers strained to keep the car on the road. And once the audience can sense the huge effort involved in being funny, the game's over.
It had the usual problem of a Hollywood comedy- the overriding need to have the characters end up seeming respectable, upstanding, and above all sympathetic to Joe and Jane Sixpack drains the life right out of the film. It's become so endemic that I routinely discount the ends of comedies when I rate them- the courage to end a comedy on an offbeat but perfect note like the one in Some Like it Hot seems to be extinct.
But overall, well worth watching. It has some really, REALLY funny bits, and the leading men keep all the plates spinning merrily in the air for the majority of the runtime.
My one gripe is this: since when do two pairs of bare tits and some marginally raunchy visual jokes make a film a cause celebre? You can't watch a goddamn entertainment news show without hearing how "brave" they were for accepting the R rating and not cutting it for PG-13. If that's bravery, what accolades do the producers of a movie like Beach Girls (which had more tits in its TRAILER than Wedding Crashers had in its entirety) deserve?
Has the culture war in this country reached the point where a four second cameo by a senator in the scandalously R-rated Wedding Crashers needs an explanatory appearance on The Tonight Show?
Judging by John McCain's appearance with Leno last night, the answer is "yes".