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Wedding Crashers (9/10)

by Tony Medley

What are the reasons a comedy works? Clearly, it’s not the reasonableness or believability of the plot. “Bringing Up Baby” (1938) was about a mild mannered zoologist who got tangled up with a woman who owned a leopard, for heaven’s sake. “Freaky Friday” (2003) was about a mother and daughter who switched bodies. But director Howard Hawks and screenwriter Dudley Nichols and Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in the former and director Mark Waters and writer Heather Hoch and Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan in the latter took silly premises and created magic.

So many “comedies” fall flat on their collective faces. How many really funny films have you seen recently? There have been those advertised as funny, like “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and “Kicking and Screaming” just this year that were fatuous and stupid, respectively.

In “Wedding Crashers” John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and his buddy, Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughn) are living the life of Riley. They crash weddings, meet girls, have their way with them, and move on.

Then they crash a wedding of the powerful Cleary family (the old man is Secretary of the Treasury) and John meets Claire Cleary (Rachel McAdams) and falls for her. Jeremy meets Gloria Cleary (Isla Fisher) and she falls for him. They are invited to spend a weekend at the family’s seaside compound. Also involved is Kathleen Cleary (Jane Seymour, how time flies!), their mother, who has been unfaithful to Secretary Cleary (Christopher Walken) for all but the first 2 years of their marriage and hits on John. Claire is engaged to the arrogant, despicable bully Sack Lodge (Bradley Cooper), which throws a wrench into John’s pursuit of her. Remember the old adage, “The Cabots speak only to the Lodges, and the Lodges speak only to God?” Well, the Secretary is looking forward to the amalgamation of his family with Sack’s family. While this has all the earmarks of fatuousness and stupidity, director David Dobkin, writers Steve Faber & Bob Fisher, and Wilson and Vaughn have created a surprisingly entertaining 113-minute comedy.

I’ve always liked Wilson but have only seen him starring in one film that I thought was any good, “The Big Bounce” (2004). If you blinked you missed it. Yeah, he was in “Meet the Fockers” (2004) and that was good but he had an ill-conceived, poorly written cameo and his segment crashed.

Here he and Vaughn create a comedy duo I’d like to see more, ad libbing many of their scenes together. Whatever and however they did it, they have a chemistry and repartee that work.

It’s only fair that I reveal that I’m a big fan of Rachel McAdams. She was very good in “Mean Girls” (2003) as the heavy, and she broke hearts in “The Notebook”, for my money 2004’s best film. Her performance here, while it takes a back seat to Wilson and Vaughn, is what it needs to be as the girl who steals Wilson’s heart. There’s nothing unbelievable about that because she wouldn’t have to steal my heart; I’d give it to her.

While there are scenes of questionable taste, along with an appearance by Will Ferrell, the film is so good it overcomes those obstacles. Ferrell’s shtick is getting hoary, but it’s not as bad here as it was in “Kicking and Screaming” and “Anchorman” and “Melinda and Melinda.” But, then, he was only in a few scenes.

The film got an ovation at the media screening, and that doesn’t happen often.

July 9, 2005