Good comedies get by on amusing concepts, while great comedies sustain the laughter long after they've delivered their one-line pitch. Wedding Crashers belongs in the former category. It rides its amusing premise like gangbusters for one solid act, but overextends itself the minute it leaves the comfy confines of its smart setup.
Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, playing themselves, are John and Jeremy - lifelong friends who spend the wedding season crashing strangers' receptions for the free booze and vulnerable women. They have an angle for every party and work the room like politicians at a fund-raising breakfast. Watching them attack someone else's special day with reckless abandon provides the most fun I've ever had at a wedding, my own not included.
But when the crashing stops, so too does the film's momentum. Steve Faber and Bob Fisher's screenplay settles into a disappointingly predictable groove when John falls for beautiful bridesmaid Claire Cleary (Rachel McAdams) at a high-profile ceremony. He's smitten, so he convinces Jeremy to follow Claire's family back to their Maryland estate where he hopes to win her heart with one whopping lie after another.
What once was fresh quickly fizzles. Are you surprised to hear that Claire has a boyfriend (Bradley Cooper) who acts like a self-centered jerk when she's not around? Her family's no better, a laundry list of stock clichés ranging from her homosexual brother to her blatantly racist grandmother and oversexed mother (Jane Seymour, who should be above roles like this). Isla Fisher finds a few laughs as Claire's psychotic sister, Gloria, who effectively turns the tables on womanizer Jeremy. And McAdams' mega-watt smile shines brighter than ever, but she can't completely distract us from overused setups involving stomach-churning medications slipped into people's drinks. How original.
Vaughn valiantly shoulders the load in an effort to keep us interested during the downward swings. His gift for dishing insincerity in rapid doses has been refined to near perfection. This movie is infinitely funnier when Vaughn and Wilson are allowed to occupy their comfort zone and wander away from the script.
Director David Dobkin doesn't know when to cue up Donna Summers' "Last Dance" and call it an evening. After the truth is inevitably revealed about John and Jeremy, we still wade through an engagement, another wedding, two hypocritical apologies, and a Will Ferrell cameo that drags the proceedings to a surprisingly innovative low point. I won't give the joke away, but I can report that it falls flat on its face. Still, I give Wedding credit for even trying it, for it's in that extended moment that the movie finally ventures out a limb in the name of comedy.
To the bride and grooms!