July 16, 2005

MOVIES: Wedding Crashers (David Dobkin, 2005)

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn have perfected their comic personas over the last few years -- Wilson, the slow-talking sensitive guy; Vaughn, the jabbering sleaze -- and together, they make a fine pair of opposites. Their chemistry is the best thing about Wedding Crashers, which is an extremely good comedy for 90 minutes before going all gooey and sentimental in the last 20.

Wilson and Vaughn play John and Jeremy, best friends who spend every summer crashing weddings in order to pick up girls. It's starting to dawn on both of them that they're reaching the age where this sort of thing stops being charming youthful hijinks and starts being vaguely pathetic, but they can't resist the "crash of the century." The daughter of the Secretary of the Treasury is getting married, and 200 high-society single women will be on hand, making it well worth the challenge of getting in past the Secret Service.

The bride has two sisters, and each of the guys winds up with one. Jeremy is horrified to discover that Gloria (Isla Fisher) has fallen instantly in love, and wants out ("I've got a Class Five clinger emergency here!"); John, however, wants to see more of Claire (Rachel McAdams), and over Jeremy's objections, he accepts Gloria's invitation to spend the weekend with the Clearys.

Unfortunately for both men, the Cleary family is nuts. As Roger Ebert put it, when Christopher Walken (who plays the Treasury Secretary) is only the fourth-craziest member of the family, you know you're in trouble. There's the potty-mouthed grandma, the angry gay brother, the sexually unfulfilled mother. And as an extra obstacle for John, there's Claire's fiance, a viciously nasty, smug idiot (Bradley Cooper).

It's not as if there are a lot of big surprises in the movie; we know pretty much who's going to wind up with who, and that the idiot fiance will get his comeuppance. But the writing is sharp, and the jokes delivered with such style and energy, that the predictability of the plot isn't too bothersome. Yes, the wrapup of the movie, in which we get the big romantic speeches and the "love conquers all" mushiness, is a bit of a letdown. But that first hour-and-a-half is such fun that it's worth putting up with it.

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