‘The Big Wedding’ is likeable while it lasts

Ensemble film is a cute slice of comedic fun

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Movies with all-star casts are not the easiest to love. Usually, their budgets are so large that all they need to do is rely on their celebrity status to draw large crowds to movie theaters. Sure, they tell a funny story that will keep you entertained for 90 minutes, but they are nothing to write home about. Expectedly, “The Big Wedding,” hitting theaters April 26, fits this model.

A comedy starring Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl and Diane Keaton, among others, “The Big Wedding” follows a pretty predictable plot, which, though not terrible, is worn-out. It follows the Griffins, a charmingly modern family, who are preparing for a weekend wedding celebration. Don and Ellie Griffin (De Niro and Keaton), a long-divorced couple, are forced to pretend to be in a loving marriage as their adopted son’s ultraconservative biological mother flies to America from Colombia for his wedding. Thrown into the mix are Lyla (Heigl), Don’s and Ellie’s headstrong daughter dealing with relationship troubles, and Jared (Topher Grace), a 20-something virgin waiting for true love.

The movie — though at the surface seems to be more about sex, love and lies — actually does delve into deeper themes. It questions what the true meaning of family really is: Is marriage the right way to express love? Is sex meaningful anymore? Should religion and marriage have a symbiotic relationship? Though reflective at times, “The Big Wedding” tries to keep things light and fluffy for most of the movie.

One character whose role is minimal, though hilarious, is Father Moinighan, played by Robin Williams. The Catholic priest asks the engaged couple (Ben Barnes and Amanda Seyfried) how they plan on raising their children religiously, and they reply that they would like to wait for their children to mature so their children can choose their own life paths. The priest replies, “Hell it is then.” It is impossible to watch the movie without thinking of Father Moinighan as a symbol for the traditional Catholic Church; it causes us to question the role religion plays in modernity.

Ellie is another character who provides insight on our modern way of living. Ellie, as a divorced and independent woman who is able to find happiness outside the cookie-cutter family, challenges the way women are viewed. She reveals her flaws and mistakes, questioning throughout the film whether she made the right choices in life. Yet through it all, she demonstrates that happiness is relative.

Though not much of a memorable or metaphorical character, De Niro portrays the troubled father quite well. His scruffy beard, paunch and dirty jokes lend a hand in painting him as your classic love-him-but-hate-him De Niro character. Other highlights include a sassy Susan Sarandon (There’s no better Sarandon than a sassy one, I say!) and a glowing Amanda Seyfried looking angelic and fairylike as always (Is it just me, or does she always have flowers in her hair?).

Yes, “The Big Wedding” is rife with scenes that could have been in any other comedy — you know, like that one scene where all members of the family throw a tantrum, loudly spilling their secrets in front of all 100 wedding guests — but it isn’t a big flop. The characters are loveable, and that’s perhaps all that matters. Watching the Griffins put the “funk” in “dysfunctional” is entertaining and may even help you feel a little bit better about your own psycho family. Though the predictable film does seem to borrow elements from other comedies (taking “something borrowed” to a new level), societal criticisms can be found if you dig deep enough under the well-worn comedic formula.

Contact Addy Bhasin at [email protected].