REVIEW: The Big Wedding sheds light on the dynamics of non-traditional families

There are different kinds of love and this is one big lesson that Diane Keaton's character Ellie realizes by the time The Big Wedding credits roll.

It is true that hopes are always quite high when you combine Robert de Niro, Robin Williams, Diane Keaton, and Susan Sarandon in one movie. However, learn to manage your expectations for Justin Zackham's romantic comedy The Big Wedding. The movie is packaged as a light, somewhat silly, entertaining flick that isn't too complicated. Consider it your breather from the horror genre as it opened the same week as Scary Movie V and The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia.

Also, the source material for this film comes from France, from a movie titled Mon frére se marie and while Zackham delivers his own English version screenplay, it ended up being a bit campy. The premise of the movie alone leaves so much room for campiness: two long-time divorcees pretend to be married again for the sake of their son's big wedding and the arrival of his birth mother, who disapproves of anything untraditional.

Admittedly, this is Zackham's first outing as writer-director, and perhaps something he had to tick off his bucket list (write and direct a movie). So, we can give a break to the guy who wrote the book and screenplay for The Bucket List (which starred the brilliant Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson as dying cancer patients about to go on a big adventure).

The "big wedding" that is causing tension among everyone is the wedding ceremony of Alejandro (Ben Barnes) and Melissa (Amanda Seyfried). Alejandro's biological mother Madonna (Patricia Rae) is expected to attend the wedding and the groom asks his adoptive parents to pretend that they are still a happily married couple.

One of the highlights of the movie is the inclusion of actor Topher Grace. We don't see enough of this guy who had his first professional stage outing only last year in Paul Weitz's romantic comedy off-Broadway play called Lonely, I'm Not. [SIDE NOTE: His The Big Wedding co-stars Robert de Niro and Susan Sarandon came out to watch him for that play]

For those who loved him in That 70's Show, you'll see a little bit of that endearing, naive side in his role as Jared, the son of Don (played by Robert de Niro) and Ellie (played by Diane Keaton). If that isn't enough to make you go out and catch the movie, Topher also plays a 29-year old virgin who happens to be an OB-Gyne and has been saving himself for "The One." Imagine that. And with his gorgeous green eyes looking at you, you will believe pretty much anything he says.

Another interesting character in the movie is eye-candy Ben Barnes who plays Alejandro, Don and Ellie's adoptive son from Colombia. Again, he is one guy we don't see enough of, especially since we last saw him in two Narnia movies as Prince (and eventually) King Caspian. And you read that right, he plays a Colombian hottie (quite a stretch, but we'll take it) who is fluent in five languages as Amanda Seyfried's character Missy puts it, "English being very much one of his five languages." In this movie, Ben boasts of tanned skin (in an effort to make him look more South American than his actual English nationality) and hearing him speak in Mandarin and Spanish is enough to make any girl melt in her seat.

When Nuria (played by Ana Ayora) is a woman with no qualms about baring her body. She chooses to be nude on the first day of meeting Jared and states in her adorable Latin accent: "So you'll show me around and you'll make love to me?" while flashing the most innocent of smiles. When she later on tells her mother, Madonna (played by Patricia Rae), "I don't want to wear that, I have a beautiful body and I want to show it," your inner diva will go "That's my girl!"

Speaking of Patricia Rae, her Madonna character is the whole reason why Alejandro convinces his parents that they have to pretend to still be married for the sake of Madonna's ultra-religious, Catholic ways. Her name alone convinces you she is probably the most pious of devotees but in one of the film's best moments (a trek in the woods scene between Ellie and Madonna), you'll find out otherwise. Ellie goes on and on about how thankful she is to Madonna for letting her raise Alejandro, but that she Ellie, never tried to take Madonna's place in Alejandro's heart. While Ellie is all sentimental, all Madonna can say in Spanish (because her character doesn't understand or speak English) is "I think I understand you, but what I'd like to know is how you did that orgasm this morning..." This clues you in on the double nature of this conservative woman and with Patricia's delivery, leaves room for some genuine laughter.

The film also sheds light on the dynamics of non-traditional families: with Don and Ellie welcoming Alejandro into their home, even though they already have two kids Jared and Lyla (Katherine Heigl) as well Susan Sarandon's character Bebe becoming Don's common-law partner and "mom" to Alejandro as well.

While much of the movie is predictable, you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised that like Ellie, you will understand better the different kinds of love by movie's end.

When watching The Big Wedding, expect to have a good time, with just enough good-natured naughtiness to give it a PG-13 rating.






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