Bawdy fun and games come to a crashing halt

`Wedding Crashers' goes downhill when Wilson, Vaughn characters get serious


July 15, 2005|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Wedding Crashers is unashamedly profane and, for its first two acts, very funny, a classic guilty pleasure that revels in its basest elements. If only it didn't get all mushy and profound in the third act, this movie could have been a classic, period.

Perhaps one shouldn't quibble; genuine laughter is rare enough in movie theaters these days, and Wedding Crashers delivers the yuks (you might be embarrassed, but you will be laughing). Still, one can't help but sigh as the movie stumbles toward its finish line, getting all serious in its intent and all mush-mouthed in its delivery. No one attends a movie like this looking for a life lesson, and it's a shame the filmmakers try to deliver one.

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are John Beckwith and Jeremy Gray, two Washington divorce mediators who double as arrested adolescents always on the watch for new babes to conquer. And what better place to find such babes, they long ago determined, than weddings, where every unattached woman in the crowd dreams of becoming the center of attention, just like that bride up there.

Thus have John and Jeremy become expert wedding crashers, taking a few weeks every summer to show up uninvited at as many weddings as possible, make like the life of the party and partake of as many willing young women as possible.

Yes, it's a raunchy premise that sounds totally degrading, and Wedding Crashers shies away from nothing in its depiction of their bacchanalian lifestyle. Rarely has that old rock 'n' roll chestnut "(You Make Me Wanna) Shout" been put to better use than in a montage of John and Jeremy's greatest hits. The manic energy of the song is matched by the manic energy of the movie at that point, and surpassed by the manic energy of these two stooges, who carouse as though life had no other purpose. For them, it doesn't.

Vaughn, especially, is in his element as the archetypal partier, the living embodiment of frat-boy sleaze. Mainly on the strength of Vaughn's character, Wedding Crashers is R-rated, and proud if it. Not so much for rampant nudity, which is mostly fleeting. But the talk is there, the attitude is there and Vaughn, bless his opportunistic little heart, is unregenerately hilarious.

Wilson proves a little more problematic, since he's the one saddled with learning the sad lesson that debauchery is not an honorable profession. As an actor, Wilson always seems to be smirking and/or winking at his audience; it's hard to take him seriously, especially since, whenever his conscience takes hold, he sounds whiney. Still, his surfer-boy good looks and his I-can't-believe-I'm-getting-away-with-this demeanor - he's more a rapscallion than a true degenerate - makes for a nice complement to Vaughn's boundless bad taste.

The seeds of our boys' downfall are sown when they decide to crash an upper-crust wedding on Maryland's Eastern Shore (much of the film was shot there last summer). The bride is the daughter of U.S. Treasury Secretary William Cleary (played with his usual feral sense by Christopher Walken). Crashing such a high-class affair is fraught with peril (though security never seems to be an issue), but neither John nor Jeremy foresees the real danger: that one of them will fall truly in love.

But then John spies the maid of honor, the fetching Claire Cleary (Rachel McAdams, stuck with the thankless job of playing straight woman to everybody else), and all is lost. Jeremy is for sticking to the hedonism that is crashing - and things really heat up when he meets another Cleary daughter, played by a scene-stealing Isla Fisher, who proves his match in the debauchery department. But John gets all misty-eyed. He's determined to make an honest man of himself, so he can attract an honest woman like Claire.

Once the courtship of Claire and John takes center stage, Wedding Crashers loses steam. It's like a Marx Brothers movie whenever the love interests show up; the movie grinds to a halt while the entire audience waits for Allan Jones to stop singing and cede the stage to Groucho, Harpo and Chico.

You know Wedding Crashers is in trouble when a song queues up and the screen turns into a music video, filled with green pastures and smiling people who aren't even trying to be funny. The movie includes three such interludes, and none of them does it any favor.

Wedding Crashers

Starring Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams

Directed by David Dobkin

Released by New Line Cinema

Rated R

Time 119 minutes

Sun Score *** (three stars)

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