After the critical and commercial success of "Meet the Parents," Robert De Niro tried to milk laughs from lesser comedies. But certain things can't be milked.
It's nearly tragic to see America's Greatest Living Actor on the guest list for "The Big Wedding," the latest limp comedy about seniors behaving badly.
Although the title implies that this is a sentimental, special-occasion comedy like "New Year's Eve" (an all-star fiasco from which De Niro emerged relatively unscathed), it's more like a crass kinsman who pukes in the punchbowl. In his first scene, De Niro upchucks a half-dozen slang terms for oral sex, and it goes downhill from there.
De Niro plays Don, an inexplicably affluent sculptor who bungled his marriage to Ellie (Diane Keaton). After a 10-year spiritual odyssey overseas, Ellie returns for the wedding of their adopted Colombian son Alejandro (miscast British actor Ben Barnes) at the big lakeside home that Don now shares with Ellie's former friend Bebe (Susan Sarandon).
Three days before Alejandro is due to marry Melissa (romantic-comedy kiss of death Amanda Seyfried), he requests that his adoptive parents pretend to be married again for the benefit of his strictly Catholic biological mother, Madonna (Patricia Rae), who is on her way to the States for the first time.
So on the flimsy basis of respecting the sensitivities of a stranger who doesn't speak English, Ellie moves into the house and Bebe moves out, and then poses as a caterer to keep an eye on recovering-alcoholic Don.
As if that weren't sitcom-y enough, Ellie and Don have two other adult children: lawyer Lyla (the ubiquitous Katherine Heigl), whose marriage is faltering because she can't have children; and doctor Jared (Topher Grace), a 30-year-old virgin who develops funny feelings for Madonna's manhandling daughter Nuria (Ana Ayora).
Adapted from the 2006 comedy "Mon frere se marie" and credited to a neophyte writer/director named Justin Zackham, "The Big Wedding" doesn't have a single moment of recognizable humanity.
On the plus side, it's short, and Robin Williams as a racist priest is blessedly limited to an extended cameo.
Perhaps we'll get more of Williams, along with bickering bridesmaids and a flamboyant wedding planner, in the inevitable bonus-packed home video -- which would make the perfect wedding gift for someone you despise.
"The Big Wedding" (1½ stars)
Fallout from "The Fockers" franchise, this unfunny sitcom has nothing to recommend it. Robert De Niro heads a cast that mixes capable veterans (Susan Sarandon) with poor choices (Amanda Seyfreid). Luckily, it's short. With Diane Keaton, Topher Grace, Kathryn Heigle and Robin Williams in a brief cameo.
Rated: R for language, nudity.
Showing: Alderwood, Cinebarre, Everett, Galaxy Monroe, Marsyville, Stanwood, Meridian, Sundance, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.
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