“Wedding Crashers” is a high-concept, totally formulaic comedy that should not work. Any script that calls for the audience to have sympathy for two slimeballs who spend all of their free time preying on women’s emotional vulnerability at weddings is asking a lot, especially when it derails into forced sappiness. But thanks to two perfectly cast lead roles and a couple of winning supporting performances, “Wedding Crashers” just barely skates by with seemingly effortless charm.
Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are funny guys, and the ones most responsible for selling this unlikely bill of goods. Respectively, they play Jeremy and John, two longtime pals and divorce mediators who live for “wedding season.” When it arrives, they go on vacation, tapping as many weddings and as much ass as possible. The film makes a clear statement in the first montage of the film, a scene that begins with Jeremy and John partying with wedding guests who are oblivious to their real identities and ends with multiple topless women on their backs in bed. Which leads one to believe…
This is a movie about sex.
Most of what you may have seen in previews for “Wedding Crashers” takes place in this early montage, and it is a nice change of pace to not know exactly where the film is going because the trailer for once didn’t show you the whole damned plot. Was the preview edited specifically with that thought in mind? I doubt it. The studio wants to sell a movie, and by cutting the preview to focus on Vaughn and Wilson’s girl-scamming antics, they imply that the entire film is like this. But it is not. The reality is…
This is not a movie about sex.
After said opening montage, John grows tired of crashing weddings. “Some day you’ll look back on all this and laugh, say we were young and stupid,” Jeremy says, facing the immense and phallic Washington Monument in D.C. John replies, “We’re not that young.”
And with that, a movie that could have been a rousing satire on the cheesy sentimentality and short-term heightened bliss of weddings becomes the polar opposite– another harmlessly funny movie about falling in love that just doesn’t add up.
John wants to quit the game, but Jeremy convinces him one more time to crash a “power” wedding– the equivalent, I suppose, of the career thief’s “one last big score.” John falls for Claire (Rachel McAdams), the conflicted daughter of the U.S. Treasury Secretary (Christopher Walken), while Jeremy targets the Secretary’s crazier daughter, Gloria (Isla Fisher).
Vaughn and Fisher steal the movie, and are able to let the bawdy sparks fly, while Wilson and McAdams are saddled with a run-of-the-mill romantic subplot. McAdams, while radiant, is also weighed down by a fiancée so immoral that you wonder how her character has managed to spend three and a half years with him. Wilson reverts to sheepish mode to lure her away from her evil boyfriend, and he becomes the straight man to the chatterbox hyperactivity of Vaughn.
Rather than flaunting its R-rating with a bunch of typical homophobic jokes, it would have been nice to see “Wedding Crashers” actually poke some raunchy fun at the institution of marriage and the staid traditions that drag so many weddings down. Vaughn and Wilson are obviously capable of making people laugh, and if an audience is willing to go along with the mean-spirited ride during the opening moments, then it’s a cinch that they would have been able to stick it out through some darker satire. Instead, director David Dobkin is content to force a lame conflict between Jeremy and John as one of them sulks while the other realizes true love, wrapping the whole affair up with a (guess what?)…wedding!
Dobkin was lucky enough to have McAdams, Wilson, and especially Vaughn and Fisher in his film. He was smart enough to let his leading men improvise in character and make the most of every scene. It is too bad, then, that he couldn’t help his writers devise a more original and less contrived conflict. “Wedding Crashers” is a pretty funny movie despite its more obvious choices, but it could have been a way more daring one.