In the second case of perfect casting this weekend, "The Wedding Crashers" is, perhaps, the ideal film for the pairing of real life buddies Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. In the film, Wilson and Vaughn play divorce mediators with a long history of crashing weddings as a way to meet (and ultimately bed) emotionally vulnerable women.
Their contrasting styles of speech and physicality make watching nearly every scene between Wilson and Vaughn funny and remarkably moving. "The Wedding Crashers" often seems quite confused about the kind of film it wants to be, which leads to an ultimate letdown halfway through the film as we shift gears from a fast-paced, strictly comic series of adventures as Wilson and Vaughn go through 17 weddings during wedding season with a wide range of hilarious interactions at the weddings. The boys visit a diverse array of weddings. Their pick-up lines and assumed roles are so simple that the scenes become believable and, ultimately, even funnier. Laid-back Wilson and frantic Vaughn play off each other perfectly as they bounce from conquest to conquest throughout the film.
"The Wedding Crashers" changes pace as the boys decide to do the ultimate crash...crashing the wedding of Treasury Secretary Cleary's (played quite nicely by Christopher Walken) daughter. This wedding, in itself, is rich with comic material and the ceremony is a wonderful opportunity for Rachel McAdams (as Claire Cleary) to shine. She did what so many of us want to do during a particularly cheesy wedding vow. It's a wonderful scene that gives a glimpse into the character to come. The rest of the family is just as delightful including Jane Seymour as Secretary Cleary's wife (those used to the "proper" Seymour will revel in her vivacious, sensual performance) whose remark "We've been happily married for 30 years, I was faithful for two of them" is made ultimately funnier in having it played out by Seymour. Isla Fisher plays another daughter, Gloria Cleary, and nearly steals every scene she's in as a "conquest" for Vaughn who ends up turning the tables on him. It's another funny, yet oddly sweet portrayal that is emotionally satisfying but also indicative of the film's inability to decide what it wants to be.
Being a very basic comedy, the film also has a few stereotypical characters...the black sheep, artistic Cleary son...Claire's "bad guy" boyfriend...a potty mouthed grandmother and a few others along the way.
All perform their characters admirably, yet director David Dobkin, a relatively new director, doesn't seem to always trust the material. Walken, for example, is seriously under-utilized with his incredible ability to do darkly comic material...and, quite often, it felt like McAdams was simply too good for this film. On several occasions, I found myself completely captivated by the emotions on display from McAdams yet I'd be jerked out of the scene by a quick return to juvenile humor. Perhaps this would have been less obvious with a lesser talented actress (say, for example, Teri Polo from "Meet the Parents"), however, in this case it seemed to add a layer to the film that simply wasn't meant to be there.
Some will remember Isla Fisher from last year's "I Heart Huckabees", when she played Heather. Fisher was simply hilarious here and a perfect comic foil for Vaughn. (A scene at dinner is nothing short of hilarious in its simplicity).
I question the wisdom of making Claire's boyfriend as clearly abusive as he's portrayed here. These plot points are never clearly developed...for example, Claire clearly has the support of her father throughout the film...why would she not follow her instinct and leave this guy? I loved the resolution, but it was difficult to buy into. Likewise, though, the flip side for me is that it was nice to not have a stereotypical resolution...where the "bad guy" is outed for all the bad things he's done...instead, Wilson does get outed (by the bad guy)...and then, several months later, we get a final resolution that is devoid of revenge or bitterness. It's an intelligent, dignified way to handle the situation that is, once again, emotionally satisfying but a bit too smooth to be realistic.
There's a cameo by Will Ferrell that seems a bit forced, and you can also watch for other interesting cameos. (mostly uncredited).
"The Wedding Crashers" comes out at the at the perfect time...recent flicks have largely been action oriented and/or quite intense. While it's far from perfect and could, quite easily, fall into the low "B" or high "C" range, "The Wedding Crashers" is a funny, entertaining and often insightful film featuring stellar comic performances by Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson with solid supporting turns by Rachel McAdams and those who play the rest of her family. With a more confident director and another re-working of the script (penned by Steve Faber & Bob Fisher) "The Wedding Crashers" could have been this summer's blockbuster comedy hit...instead, it has to rest on the knowledge that its excellent cast elevates the film from an average, run-of-the-mill comedy into one with brilliant comic moments and likeable, well-paced acting from its ensemble case. I've always found comedy to be an intriguing genre within film...quite often, what makes me laugh is not always the most brilliant film. "The Wedding Crashers" is the perfect example of a flawed, but ultimately entertaining film.