Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Movie Review: "Wedding Crashers"

Starring Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, Isla Fisher, Jane Seymour and Christopher Walken
Directed by David Dobkin

Portraying a pair of divorce mediators who aren't related, but just appear to be, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn make the most of their likeable nature in "Wedding Crashers," a funny, yet inconsistent variation on the raunchy R-rated movies that were so prevalent in the 1980s.
John Beckwith (Wilson) and Jeremy Klein (Vaughn) are fun-loving, good-natured guys who have a desire to treat the summertime season of weddings as a kind of sport, where they show up uninvited to the events and proceed to enjoy themselves at the expense of others. Oh yeah, and they also use the occasions as a chance to sleep with as many horny bridesmaids as possible. A well edited montage in the movie displays the wide range of weddings the two are willing to crash in order to have a good time.
In the hands of lesser actors, these characters would be insufferable louts that you could scarcely stand to spend five minutes with, let alone two hours. But both Wilson and Vaughn have experience playing these kind of immature characters, who seem content to put off true adulthood as long as possible. They make John and Jeremy at least not quite as sleazy as they maybe read on the page.
But a wedding involving the daughter of U.S. Treasury Secretary Cleary (Christopher Walken) proves a turning point for both of the men, involving the pursuit of his two other daughters. John becomes smitten with Claire (Rachel McAdams), while Jeremy, after a sexual encounter on the beach with Gloria (Isla Fisher), finds himself desperate to get away from her.
"I've got a stage five clinger," Jeremy desperately tells John, who responds by having the two accept an invitation to the Cleary family summer home. John sees this as a chance to get to know Claire better, only to discover her testosterone-fueled boyfriend (Bradley Cooper) waiting for them at the house. Jeremy simply believes he's going to have to suffer a little to help out his friend. Just how much Jeremy has to go through at the home provides most of the laughs in the film's second act.
Scenes involving the boyfriend, written as a completely unlikeable jerk, tend to have an unnecessary cruelty behind them that don't add to the humor. That's not to say Cooper doesn't perform the part well. It's just that the script by Steve Faber and Bob Fisher wants us to believe that a seemingly sweet-natured person such as Claire would have actually been dating this guy for more than three years. A comedy such as this needs a villain who's more of a dolt than an aggressive, cruel character.
The movie also misses out on making better use of Walken and Jane Seymour as his wife, who has the hots for John. Walken, in particular, has proven with his many stints on "Saturday Night Live" that he's got a knack for comedy. But here he's left generally playing the straight man to Wilson and Vaughn.
"Wedding Crashers" is at its strongest when it throws Wilson and Vaughn into scenes together and lets the longtime friends cut loose. Vaughn has seemingly cornered the market on the fast-talking best friend role, starting back in 1996 with "Swingers." Here, he gets most of the big laughs, some of them seemingly the result of improvisation. The fact that he's used the line "I like where your head's at" in two different movies this year (the other being "Mr. and Mrs. Smith") leads me to that conclusion. Regardless, Vaughn is working the charm in this movie and is the best reason to see it.
Taking it in with tempered expectations, "Wedding Crashers" is good fun while it lasts – even managing to find a small part for Will Ferrell. It's good to see that guy get a role thrown his way every once in a while.
Grade: B-
(Rated R for sexual content/nudity and language.)

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