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Consummate crashers
Wilson, Vaughn, and a big fat freak Wedding

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Wedding Crashers's official Web site

Like successful filmmakers and politicians, John Beckwith and Jeremy Grey know when their targets are most vulnerable. Single women at a wedding, for example: let sentimentality glaze over need and anxiety and they’re yours for the taking and the leaving. This premise is cynical and sexist, and as played out by Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan, it’s ripe for uproarious comeuppance.

Enough to excuse David Dobkin’s opening montage of the two at their worst. Lawyers specializing in divorce mediation, Beckwith (Wilson) and Grey (Vaughn) know from experience that true love generally reaches its peak and overflows onto innocent bystanders at the wedding reception. This they exploit by crashing the party, faking a relationship to the happy couple, and trolling for besotted females, a practice they’ve refined into a quasi-religion with rules and rituals. Hence the long and unfunny introduction. Dobkin (Shanghai Knights) cuts from Jeremy’s mouth stuffed with wedding cake to dizzy bridesmaids plopping topless onto bed sheets; the effect is wearying and distasteful.

John has also grown disgusted with the charade, but Jeremy has one more big debauch in mind, the wedding of Christina Cleary (Jennifer Alden), daughter of Treasury Secretary John Cleary (Christopher Walken, with few lines but with a devastating stare). Things don’t quite go as planned, however. Although Jeremy quickly seduces Christina’s sister Gloria (Isla Fisher), she’s a wildcat who proves more than he can handle. And after John exchanges glances with the other sister, Claire (Rachel McAdams), she turns out to be the property of a boorish fiancé. Worse, John finds himself breaking one of the cardinal crasher rules by falling in love, and he persuades a spent and panicky but still loyal Jeremy to go along when they’re invited to the Clearys’ beachfront estate.

At this point, the film becomes Meet the Parents with two daughters and Christopher Walken in the De Niro role, though with a few side trips to The Graduate (Jane Seymour as Cleary’s wife makes a splendidly demented Mrs. Robinson), Annie Hall (Keir O’Donnell in a gay variation of the troubled-brother role once played by Walken), and a ribald reference to Shampoo. Predictable, perhaps, but gut-busting and with a subversive subtext as the film develops into a contest between two types of American assholes. Sack Lodge (Bradley Cooper), Claire’s intended, is a bullying blueblood, a perfect specimen of the entitled ruling class. John and Jeremy, on the other hand, are spirited ciphers inventing themselves as they go along, representatives of the American Dream, the descendants of Jay Gatsby.

The battle rages with ingenious tactics and outrageous surprises. The performances shine with nuance and wit; McAdams and Fisher in particular show how to prevail over stereotypes. It’s Wilson and Vaughan who carry the day, however. With hallucinatory dialogue (no doubt improvised) as rapid-fire as in a Howard Hawks comedy, they vie to be the biggest bullshitter, to demonstrate the transcendence of gleeful fabrication. Even without the film’s heavy-handed homo-erotic suggestions, it’s obvious that theirs is the perfect marriage.

Issue Date: July 15 - 21, 2005
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