Love, Weddings and Other Disasters


Jeremy Irons counts the number of blind jokes in the scene.

(2020) Romantic Comedy (Saban) Maggie Grace, Jeremy Irons, Diane Keaton, Andrew Bachelor, Diego Boneta, Jesse McCartney, Dennis Dugan, Todd Stashwick, Chandra West, Elle King, Melinda Hill, Andy Goldenberg, Caroline Portu, Richard Kline, Veronica Ferres, Levon Panek, William Xifaras, Ava Gaudet, Dennis Staroselsky, Rob Norton, Rachel Wirtz. Directed by Dennis Dugan

 

Romantic comedies seem to lend themselves to ensemble pieces, in which several different stories about a variety of couples finding love getting tied up with a nice, neat bow at the very end – which usually results in an ending. Far be it for the filmmakers behind Love, Weddings and Other Disasters to mess with the formula.

Jesse (Grace) is a pretty florist who has a type A personality, but became a reluctant viral video sensation when her fiancée dumped her in the middle of a skydive, causing her to dump him into a lake and sending her sailing into a wedding party on the adjoining dock. She became known around her native Boston as “The Wedding Trasher.”

Still, after stepping in to help plan a friend’s wedding, she is recommended to the fiancée of a Boston mayoral candidate (Staroselsky) to plan a big to-do for the candidate that will also score big political points. She takes on the job, much to the chagrin of Lawrence (Irons), the supercilious perfectionist of a caterer who is much in demand for the hoi polloi of Beantown. To make his day even worse, Laurence is set up on a blind date with Sara (Keaton), a photographer who is visually impaired and whose guide dog seems to have an unerring knack for launching her into things, such as the table with the meticulously set up champagne glass tower, sending it crashing to the floor. Even so, Laurence and Sara hit it off and after an actual date, he ends up spending the night at her place. While she’s asleep, he rearranges her furniture and then leaves her a love note. Laurence is a bit of a sadist, I think.

In the meantime, Jesse (remember her?) is trying hard to hire a rock band to play at the reception (the groom is a little bit classical, the bride is a little bit rock and roll – one is also tastes great, the other less filling) and she catches a band and is eager to hire them to do the wedding for which the guitarist (Boneta) is eager, but the front man not so much, leading to a rift in the band – and in the meantime, the guitar player falls in love with Jesse.

=And while all this is going on, a duck boat tour guide/captain (Bachelor) falls in love at first sight with a passenger with a glass slipper tattooed on her neck (Wirtz) and searches Boston for his Cinderella, becoming a cause celebre in the process, and the mayoral candidate’s goofy brother (Goldenberg) is appearing on the worst dating game show ever as contestants who are diametric opposites are chained together with the couple who lasts the longest winning a million dollars. Except instead of being a Harvard-trained lawyer that she claims to be, Svetlana (Hill) turns out to be a stripper with a mobster boss who wants to take a percentage of their winnings. And the hits keep right on coming.

For any screen romance to resonate with audiences, they have to invest in the couple and want them to get together. With all the different storylines going on, it’s nearly impossible to do that; all the characters and situations are woefully undeveloped and the plot, despite every attempt to make it edgy, is as predictable as the Kansas University basketball team having a winning season.

I don’t think this is the fault of the actors. Keaton is as wonderful as ever, and Irons is a pro as always, while Grace and Bachelor pour on the charm, but the writing is so tone-deaf, you end up looking up at the screen with jaw dropped and maybe even saying out loud “are you kidding me?” as the blind jokes are among the least offensive things going on in the humor department.

Still, those who love rom-coms will probably enjoy this because they are a particularly forgiving audience, and any chance to see actors like Keaton and Irons in action should be taken, even when the movies they are in aren’t so good. Just be warned, they are the bright spots in a movie that has few of them.

REASONS TO SEE: Irons and, particularly, Keaton are delightful.
REASONS TO AVOID: Standard, predictable rom-com anthology.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some profanity and sexual innuendo.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Dugan’s onscreen appearance as a game show host is his first screen appearance in seven years.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/8/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 5% positive reviews, Metacritic: 10/100
COMPARISON SHOPPING: New Year’s Eve
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Doin’ My Drugs

New Year’s Eve


New Year's Eve

Josh Duhamel prepares to raise a toast to handsome men

(2011) Romantic Comedy (New Line) Hilary Swank, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sarah Jessica Parker, Katherine Heigl, Zac Efron, Jon Bon Jovi, Sofia Vergara, Abigail Breslin, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher, Halle Berry, Cary Elwes, Seth Meyers, Til Schweiger, Carla Gugino, Sarah Paulson, Lea Michelle, Common, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Larry Miller, Penny Marshall, Matthew Broderick, Alyssa Milano, Hector Elizondo, Jack McGee, Yeardley Smith, James Belushi, Ryan Seacrest, John Lithgow. Directed by Garry Marshall

 

Garry Marshall is perhaps the pre-eminent director of romantic comedies working today with such classics as Pretty Woman to his credit. Recently he directed the holiday-themed ensemble piece Valentine’s Day which had considerable box office success. Could he match that with a second holiday?

Ingrid (Pfeiffer) is an assistant working for a completely oblivious executive (Lithgow) at a major record label in New York. She is sad, depressed and lonely and tired of being taken for granted, quits her job, taking with her four tickets to the company’s coveted New Year’s Eve bash at a local art gallery. She has a whole list of unfulfilled new year’s resolutions from the previous year. She enlists Paul (Efron), a courier, to help her fulfill them before midnight. If he does, the tickets to the party are his.

That party is being catered by Laura (Heigl), who until a year ago was the girlfriend of rock superstar Jensen (Bon Jovi, cast against type). It was on New Year’s Eve last year that Jensen bolted on Laura after proposing to her. He’s regretting his decision and wants to get back with her but she’s having none of it. Waiting in the wings is Ava (Vergara), Laura’s hot-blooded sexy Latin sous chef.

Sam (Duhamel) is attending a wedding in Connecticut but on the way back to New York to give a speech at a New Year’s party his car skids into a tree. He hitches a ride back to town with the parson who officiated the wedding, his wife (Smith) and grandfather (McGee). As they crawl through traffic back to the city, he recounts how he met a fascinating woman at the same party last year and is hoping he’ll run into her again.

Randy (Kutcher) is a bit of a cynic who hates New Year’s eve. He gets stuck in an elevator with his comely neighbor Elise (Michelle) who hopes her gig as a back-up singer for Jensen at his Times Square appearance might lead to a big break for her. The two are however stuck and it appears that it is going to be a pretty sad last day of 2011 for the both of them.

Kim (Parker) is a single mom who wants nothing more than to spend New Year’s eve with her daughter Hailey (Breslin). Hailey however wants to head to Times Square where a boy is waiting to bestow her first kiss on her. Kim doesn’t want her to go so in time-honored tradition Hailey runs off anyway and Kim frantically looks for her.

Expectant couples the Schwabs (Schweiger, Paulson) and the Byrnes (Biel, Meyers) bid to be the couple with the first baby of the New Year, which carries with it a $25,000 prize. It’s on as the highly competitive fathers look to figure out ways to hurry along their wives’ delivery, much to the disgust of the Byrnes’ New Age doctor (Gugino).

In the same hospital, Stan (De Niro) waits quietly to die, having refused treatment. The end is near and while the doctor (Elwes) can only make him comfortable, Stan is hoping to see the ball drop in Times Square from the rooftop, which the doctor says is against hospital policy. Nurse Aimee (Berry) stays by his side, not wanting the old man to die alone as he fights to make it to midnight.

However, the ball is in danger of not dropping. Claire (Swank) is in charge and feels the entire weight of the world on her shoulders. An electronic snafu has the ball stuck halfway up the pole. With her police officer friend Brendan (Ludacris) calming her down, she sends for super electrician Kominsky (Elizondo) to save the day and indeed, New Year’s Eve. Can there be a new year if the ball doesn’t drop?

As you can tell, there are a whole lot of plot threads to keep track of here. Marshall however keeps them all relatively easy to follow. This is very much an “old fashioned’ kind of romantic comedy and that’s meant in a good way; it doesn’t necessarily follow the same tired formula nearly every romantic comedy employs these days. There are big points for this.

Those who like star watching will be in hog heaven here. There are tons of cameos (as you can tell from the impressive list above), several of whom have no more than one or two lines of dialogue. Some of it is stunt casting but for the most part, all of the performers are pros and go about their business competently. There are even some Oscar winners who get a chance to slum a little bit.

As in any ensemble piece, there are some bits that work and others not so much. De Niro does some good work (as you knew he would) and paired up with Berry the two make a winning combination. Pfeiffer and Efron are surprisingly pleasant together, and Duhamel is as appealing a romantic lead as there is in Hollywood at the moment. There are plenty of moments that stretch disbelief to its limits (as when Breslin bares her bra in a crowded subway station, exclaiming “This isn’t a training bra” at which Parker rushes to cover her daughter up, squealing “This isn’t Girls Gone Wild” in a smarmy sit com-y voice. Does anybody do that?), in fact too many.

However, that’s really moot, honestly. This is meant to be fluff entertainment, cotton candy for the soul. It has no aspirations other than to entertain and even that it does gently. Not every movie, as I’ve often said, has to be a transformative experience. Sometimes it’s enough merely to sit back and forget your troubles for an hour and a half or two. That’s ambition enough for me.

REASONS TO GO: Star watching always fun. Some of the stories are heart-warming and tender.

REASONS TO STAY: Vignettes vary in originality and quality.

FAMILY VALUES: There are a few bad words and some sexual references.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Hector Elizondo has appeared in every movie Garry Marshall has ever made.

HOME OR THEATER: This many stars should be seen in a theater.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Young Goethe in Love