Director: Spike Lee
Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Ryan Eggold, Jasper Pääkkönen, Topher Grace, Paul Walter Hauser, Corey Hawkins, Harry Belafonte, Alec Baldwin
It has been almost thirty years since Spike Lee burst into the public consciousness with Do the Right Thing. In a year when the Academy gave Best Picture to Driving Miss Daisy’s comparatively trite take on race, Do the Right Thing was a cinematic primal scream, offering an uncompromising and profound look at the African American experience. Since then, Lee has somewhat unfairly born the burden of being considered the cinematic spokesperson of the African American community, with this political lens often overshadowing the aesthetic appreciation of his work. He hasn’t enjoyed the standing of some of his contemporaries in recent years and his work has varied in quality. But when faced with the madness of Trump’s America, the bat signal went up in the sky and Lee responded, returning to his sparkling best with BlacKkKlansman. Continue reading
Director: Justin Zackham
Starring: Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Ben Barnes, Robin Williams
There was a time when a film starring Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams would have raised a bit of interest. But with recent all-star comedies like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve consistently underwhelming and proving to be considerably less than the sum of their parts, it is understandable that The Big Wedding is approached with a great deal of scepticism. While Justin Zackham’s remake of the 2006 French Film Mon frère se marie (My Brother is Getting Married) is more of a traditional farce than yet another multiple-plotline, Love Actually imitation, the scepticism is unfortunately warranted.
Long divorced couple Don and Ellie Griffin are forced to pretend to be happily married once again when their adopted son Alejandro announces that his ultra-conservative Catholic biological mother is unexpectedly flying in from Columbia for his wedding, and confesses that he never informed her of their separation for fear of offending her beliefs. Add in a step mother who is now forced to move out of her home to maintain the illusion, a sister who is experiencing relationship troubles of her own, a brother who finds himself rather attracted to Alejandro’s biological sister and a slightly racist soon-to-be mother-in-law who is unsure about the “beige babies” the union will result in and you have all the ingredients for an eventful wedding celebration.
If the combination of the scenario, the age of some of the principal cast, and the similarity in title to My Big Fat Greek Wedding lead you to expect a gentle comedy for the whole family you could be in for a bit of a shock. From the very first scene the filmmakers seem determined to try and tap into the recent success of more ‘adult’ comedies and as such The Big Wedding is surprisingly crude, having been slapped with an MA15+ rating for strong coarse language and sexual references. The result is part screwball comedy, part American Pie-style sex-romp except that rather than being sixteen our protagonists are in their sixties.
Crudeness aside, the screenplay is reasonably witty. There are some good comic moments and while none of the cast members really shine like we know they can, they each have their moments and no one is bad. Ultimately however, where you want a good farce to build to an absurd crescendo, this one seems to get overwhelmed as the layers of ridiculousness are piled on. A film like this needs a straight character in amongst all the chaos to act as the audience’s surrogate and point of view. In this case it is likely supposed to be the betrothed couple, played by Ben Barnes and Amanda Seyfried, but they aren’t featured prominently enough to perform the function, likely due to their incredible blandness.
Incredibly predictable but entertaining enough, this comedy about seniors behaving badly is the latest in a growing tradition of Hollywood remakes of French comedies that just seem to lose something once they’re Americanised.
Rating – ★★★
Review by Duncan McLean