DVD Release Date: August 13, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: April 26, 2013
Rating: Rated R for language, sexual content and brief nudity
Genre: Comedy
Run Time: 90 minutes
Director: Justin Zackham
Cast: Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried and Topher Grace

It's called The Big Wedding but it’s really not about a wedding. It’s about sex. It’s billed as "an uproarious romantic comedy about a charmingly modern family." Um, sure... if by "charmingly modern family" they mean a group of unhappy people who think lying is preferable to truth and find it difficult to drag their minds and mouths out of the gutter long enough to hold a meaningful conversation. Modern, maybe. Charming, not so much.

The dysfunctional Griffin family has been brought together by the upcoming nuptials of adopted son Alejandro (Ben Barnes, Prince Caspian) and his fiancée Missy (Amanda SeyfriedLes Misérables). Alejandro’s adopted parents, Don (Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook) and Ellie (Diane Keaton, Because I Said So), have been divorced lo these many years, but they’re still relatively cordial even though Don has been shacked up with Ellie’s best friend Bebe (Susan Sarandon, Snitch) since the split. But then Alejandro drops the bomb that his birth mother has decided to fly in for the wedding. A devout Catholic, Madonna (Patricia Rae) has "the ridiculous impression that divorce is a great big, fat sin." So to spare her feelings, everybody decides to lie and pretend Don and Ellie are still married. Madonna doesn't speak English, so it can't be that difficult to deceive a poor, deluded woman who has silly, outdated, conservative ideas about fidelity...

Meanwhile, Jared, the other Griffin son (Topher Grace, Valentine's Day) is the butt of multiple jokes because—crazy as it seems—he decided to wait for "love" rather than jumping in the sack with any/every woman who came along. It’s not lack of opportunity; women are lined up for what his sister calls "a shot at the title." A healthy adult male who’s a virgin? What could be more ridiculous? Not much, according to this film. Of course, when Alejandro’s biological sister turns out to be a sexy Latina siren who can’t keep her hands to herself, Jared's shaky moral standards dissolve in the blink of a lascivious eye.

Hold that thought: I’m trying to remember if there was any group of people that was not insulted in the course of this movie... animal lovers may have escaped unscathed, but that was probably just an oversight. Among those who took a punch: Catholics (Robin Williams (License to Wed) plays a befuddled, ex-alcoholic priest), Christians (Alejandro tells Missy he thinks he promised the priest their children would grow up "ravenous for the sweet baby Jesus"), and anyone uncomfortable with constant references to sex (including discussions about duration and pleasure achieved, sex acts performed at the table during a family dinner, graphic sound effects, a suggestive sculpture, and more). Additionally, the bride's parents are so racist as to be caricatures, the intent clearly to make everyone else look good in contrast. The list goes on. At least the film's an equal opportunity offender.

Are there good points? The production quality is excellent and so is most of the acting. The groom is given one of the sweetest wedding presents on record. While Griffin family members are unabashed heathens, they are interesting and often sympathetic. De Niro’s character is almost completely unpleasant, but even he loves his only daughter (Katherine Heigl, 27 Dresses) and conveys that in a touching scene. There’s a lot of grace displayed, especially between Don’s ex-wife and current mistress. Bebe models a selfless kind of love when she puts the needs of her lover’s son before her own in order to help his big day go off without a hitch. It doesn’t, of course, but no matter how ugly everyone gets, they all come together for the predictable Hollywood version of a happy ending. Broken as they are, the entire Griffin family loves each other as best they can, but as fallen people living in a very fallen world, their best is often painful to watch. "There are different kinds of love," the priest says, and he's right. It’s just a shame this movie focuses so much on the carnal kinds and barely touches on anything else.

If invited to this Big Wedding my advice would be to RSVP "with regrets" and find something better to do.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Considerable drinking by most of the characters; at least two are identified as recovering alcoholics. One turns up drunk, later says he “drank my face off” at a previous time. Man shown smoking two cigarettes simultaneously after extended sex act.
  • Language/Profanity: Probably 90% of the dialogue is about sex with a variety of crude terms used. References to erections, intercourse, body parts, etc. were so extensive a comprehensive list isn't possible. Assume that if there’s a demeaning term for it, that term was probably part of the script. The f-word makes multiple appearances; God’s name is used as an expletive; sh** used alone and in combination, dou***bag; a character refers to being "co**blocked by my own mother;" "Thank Christ" said sarcastically. One character says “I guess we’re going to hell” and the priest replies “all in good time” and later says “hell it is, then” in response to a later comment.
  • Sex/Nudity: See note about sexual references above. Nude woman shown diving into lake; full rear and side nudity. Male shown in pajama bottoms, bare chest. Two couples heard having sex at different times (loud and graphic noises); later seen disheveled. Adult children discuss their parents’ sex lives “my father had his pe*** in your mom” and so on. The whole family chats about “tantric sex,” apparently a practice allowing participants to engage in marathon bouts of intercourse. Regarding adultery: “It didn’t mean anything” one character swears, “it was practically an accident.”  Another claims “no one ever died from dabbling” and apologized not for the betrayal but because “things didn’t work out.” A woman confesses to “fetishes” like lusting after other women. Sex outside marriage is more common than sex within marriage. More than one couple shown in bed together, none married. Woman asks a man she just met to “make love to me.” The idea that anyone would consider such behavior problematic is seen as laughable.
  • Violence: De Niro’s character is punched/slapped in the face several times. A few pratfalls played for laughs.
  • Spiritual Themes: A character is advised to "cross your fingers behind your back and say 'hallelujah'" in reference to lying to a priest. Lying is seen as the moral high ground in this story; virtually everyone lies to everyone else almost all the time. While the ex-wife shows grace to her husband’s mistress and a lot of compassion gets passed around, there’s very little else that’s positive.

Publication date: April 26, 2013