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MOVIES 'Wedding Crashers' gets a respectable reception



Published: Thu, July 14, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The movie entertains without a hitch for most of the time but drags too long.

By CHRISTY LEMIRE

ASSOCIATED PRESS

"Wedding Crashers" is like one of those awesome parties that's loud and rockin', booze-soaked and packed. All your friends are there, all your favorite songs are playing -- but then something goes horribly wrong.

You've been to one of these. Some guy gets drunk and starts stumbling over the furniture and telling everyone what he really thinks of them. You're desperate to get out but can't because you're caught in the drama.

That's "Wedding Crashers" -- a complete blast for about the first hour, hour and a half. Great cast, wickedly raunchy humor, pacing that leaves you breathless. But it just ... doesn't ... know when to ... end. And when it does end, it does so in a hackneyed romantic-comedy fashion that clashes with the inventiveness of everything that came before it.

Trim 20-30 minutes and you have a perfect comedy -- and there's actually a natural stopping point that director David Dobkin and first-time screenwriters/best friends Steve Faber and Bob Fisher chose to ignore. (We'll let you see it and decide for yourselves.)

Cast charm

It would seem hard to go wrong with such an inspired premise: Two guys crash weddings to pick up bridesmaids and partake in the free food and drink. It's hard to resist the chemistry of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, who bring a subversive energy to the movie that often makes it feel improvised. (However, it's easy to see how their characters get into so many weddings without getting caught. They're the life of every party -- who wouldn't want to have them around?)

Vaughn's fast-talking Jeremy and Wilson's laid-back John are longtime friends and partners at a Washington law firm specializing in divorce. In the opening sequence, which comes out swinging, Jeremy spiritedly advises Dwight Yoakam to "get out there and get some strange [women]" as Yoakam divvies up property with Rebecca De Mornay.

Weddings are only useful to these devout bachelors as a means of having free sneaky fun, until they crash the ultimate soiree: the black-tie, society-page nuptials of the daughter of Treasury Secretary William Cleary (played by Christopher Walken, which is a funny idea in itself).

The affair

While pretending to be venture capitalist brothers from New Hampshire, Jeremy quickly hooks up with the bride's cute but psychotically clingy little sister, Gloria (the effervescent Isla Fisher), while John finds himself smitten by Claire ("Mean Girls" star Rachel McAdams), another sister, who has a hard time taking the stuffy proceedings seriously.

However, Claire has a boyfriend, the competitive, old-moneyed Sack (Bradley Cooper). This is one of the movie's biggest flaws: Claire, smart and slightly tomboyish, is a young woman who obviously thinks for herself, so it's hard to believe she'd stay with a jerk like Sack for 3 1/2 years. He's drawn too two-dimensionally, completely irredeemable.

Nevertheless, John and Jeremy wrangle a weekend-long invitation to the Cleary compound on the Maryland shore, where the majority of the absurd comic antics ensue. (And these Clearys are clearly modeled after the Kennedys. They sail. They play touch football on the lawn. They have an elderly Irish-Catholic matriarch, played by Ellen Albertini Dow, the rapping granny from "The Wedding Singer.")

Same stars, same roles

Vaughn's Jeremy bears the brunt of the weirdness in the manner to which we've grown accustomed. This is his "Swingers" character 10 years later -- still working the angles and talking his way out of trouble, still bedding women through the sheer power of his magnetism, even though he's way too old for such activities. This is essentially the same guy he has played in every movie since "Swingers," but here he's at the height of his powers. It would seem he can go no further, and it makes you wonder what else he can do. (Oh, wait. We've seen it. It was called "The Cell.")

Wilson, meanwhile, is essentially playing the same guy he's played in nearly every movie, too, since "Bottle Rocket" in 1996. He's the charmingly low-key, surfer-dude straight man in the buddy-comedy combo. Once again, it's a role he's mastered, but it makes you curious to see what else he can do. (Oh wait. We've seen that, too. It was called "Behind Enemy Lines.")

Because you have Vaughn and Wilson in the same movie, you know it's only a matter of time before another member of their posse shows up -- will it be Ben Stiller? Owen's brother, Luke? -- since they all cross-pollinate one another's films.

This is another tidbit we'll choose not to divulge. We'll just say that by the time he arrives, the party's long been over.




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