It’s almost impressive how the moronic new ensemble comedy The Big Wedding manages to cram three hours’ worth of nonsensical subplots, extraneous characters, and implausible plot points into 90 minutes of streamlined idiocy. The film suffers rather than benefits from an all-star cast, which must be serviced with story arcs that run the gamut from passable to insulting. The Big Wedding’s most ridiculous plot-strand involves doctor Topher Grace holding onto his virginity as he approaches 30, out of an exceedingly fuzzy desire to lose it in a meaningful way, possibly on a beach at sunset. But when a character’s defining characteristic is his unconvincing, inexplicable virginity, he probably shouldn’t saunter through the film in what looks like a post-coital haze, as Grace’s handsome, confident, wisecracking professional does here. Still, it’s almost unfair to single him out, since nothing in The Big Wedding rings remotely true.
The eternally slumming Robert De Niro stars as a successful sculptor, blessed with a rich, complicated romantic history. His Colombian-born adopted son is marrying Amanda Seyfried, and the groom’s biological mother is flying to the States for the wedding. Out of deference to her fierce Catholic convictions and rigid sense of propriety, De Niro pretends to still be married to ex-wife Diane Keaton, when he’s actually in a long-term relationship with Susan Sarandon, Keaton’s former best friend. This leads to slapstick shenanigans, executed at a leisurely pace. Meanwhile, shrill, unpleasant daughter Katherine Heigl arrives at the festivities with baggage and relationship problems of her own, in a subplot that feels hastily shoehorned into the proceedings. The treatment of the groom’s mother is particularly condescending: She’s provided a religion and a nationality, rather than a character to play.
The Big Wedding is a remake of a French comedy, and it would probably play better as a randy, rapid-fire, door-slamming farce. Instead, the film moves at a poky pace that highlights its phoniness and the hammy desperation of the poorly choreographed physical comedy. De Niro’s horny sensualist is smacked repeatedly and vomited upon, and even endures a pratfall while attempting to perform cunnilingus on Sarandon. Such slapstick humiliations are more suitable to a pie-fucking teenager in a sex comedy than a giant of American film. De Niro has once again lent his name and tarnished-but-still-formidable legacy to a pandering lowbrow comedy that’s all empty artifice and cynical calculation.