Like a Victoria's Secret gift certificate, Wilson and Vaughn's new comedy is both trashy and romantic
By Devin D. O'Leary
Directed by David Dobkin
Cast: Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, Christopher Walken
What would happen if you took a sophisticated Jane Austin comedy, made the main characters male, moved it from upscale Regency England to upscale modern-day Washington, D.C., substituted “getting it on with chicks” for “finding a suitable marriage partner” and replaced all the innuendo-filled dialogue with penis jokes? Well, you might end up with something a bit like Wedding Crashers.
Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play John and Jeremy, a pair of professional wedding crashers who spend their weekends inviting themselves to strangers' weddings. Although it sounds like an odd avocation, it's actually a pretty sweet deal when you think about it. There's free food, tons of booze, music, dancing and--most importantly--plenty of romance-addled bridesmaids who are more than susceptible to the manipulations of some love-
Wilson (Shanghai Knights, The Royal Tenenbaums) and Vaughn (Swingers, Dodgeball) are the gold standard here. They turn what could have been a couple of detestable sleazebags into a pair of admirable charmers, hilarious in the utter sincerity of their insincerity. So what if they're making up fake names, pretending to be Jewish or cozying up to the flower girl just to curry favor with the maid of honor--they're the life of any party they attend. And they love women. The more the better, in fact.
By day, John and Jeremy work as mediators for newly divorced couples. Watching acrimonious ex-spouses bitterly divvy up their assets like two hyenas, it's not hard to see where J&J came up with their particular philosophy: Love is great, but marriage is a big fat crock. So long as these boys can romance (and hopefully bed) a different girl every weekend, everyone's lives will be fulfilled. Or so they think.
One fateful day, John and Jeremy crash a toney society wedding. The Secretary of the Treasury (Christopher Walken) is marrying off his oldest daughter in grand style. John sets his sights on the secretary's younger daughter Claire (Rachel McAdams from The Notebook and Mean Girls, who seems to get more appealing with each role she takes). Naturally, there's something special about this particular girl.
Shortly after Jeremy has bagged the secretary's youngest daughter (Isla Fisher), John suggests going into “overtime.” This is stretching the carefully delineated rules of wedding crashing, but John talks his pal into it, and the two are soon boating off to the secretary's New England estate for a weekend of sexual hijinks, romantic misunderstandings and assorted lowbrow pratfalls.
After establishing its clever central conceit, Wedding Crashers runs out of ideas for a good long time. For the majority of the film, Wedding Crashers is your standard romance laced with your occasional American Pie-style laughs. It's a rude Oscar Wilde play or an extended episode of “Three's Company”--pick your cultural reference. Naturally, John falls head over heels in love with Claire, setting up the stereotypical “you lied to me” climax, followed by the inevitable “I forgive you” denouement. Dividing up the chores, Wilson takes over most of the sweet romance scenes, while Vaughn is left to field the homosexual, handjob and S&M jokes.
Honestly, if it weren't for the presence of Wilson and Vaughn, the film would be a pale companion piece to Old School/Road Trip/American Pie and other modern raunch comedies. But Wilson and Vaughn are flat out hilarious no matter what they're doing. They turn their roles into a nonstop string of banter (much of it improvised, I'm assuming) that will have you stifling laughter just so you can catch every word of their rapid-fire dialogue. Eventually, the film escapes from its “bedroom farce” roots and picks up again toward the end with a well-timed cameo (which I will not spoil).
At times, Wedding Crashers feels hopelessly schizophrenic. It never really seems sure if it's a nasty sex comedy or a good-natured romance. There are moments when both elements seem painfully forced. (Romancing the cute bride away from the asshole groom? Saw it in The Wedding Singer. Sex under the dinner table? Saw it in American Wedding.) But, there are also moments when it all gels. So long as Wilson and Vaughn are fueling the laughs, audiences will be sufficiently amused to say “I do” to this crude, sentimental, overly romantic sex comedy.
Hermosa Juventud/Beautiful Youth at National Hispanic Cultural Center
Part of the May film “Ciclo Cine Español Contemporáneo” program. Tickets available one hour before screening.
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