Praise the Lord, Vince Vaughn is back. When I say that his performance in Wedding Crashers is his best since Swingers, I actually think that means a lot. See, he was so good in Swingers that we have been giving him a pass on a decade worth of half-assed work. Even the films where he’s pretty good – Made, which is his best non-Swingers role and Dodgeball – don’t showcase any of the brio that made a nation of film nerds want to hang out with the guy. And that’s not counting his more cameo-level performances, like in Anchorman. The full Vince Vaughn experience needs to be feature length.
Wedding Crashers offers Vaughn a perfect platform for his hip and snappy patter. Half his dialogue in the film sounds improv-ed, or at the very least written only for him. He steals every scene he’s in, and maybe the biggest flaw of the film is that it doesn’t feature him enough.
While Wedding Crashers is about the titular duo, the main story really focuses on the other lead, eternally affable Owen Wilson (you sort of get the feeling from watching him in movies that you wouldn’t mind so much if he stole your girlfriend, and you’d maybe still be happy to have a beer with him after. He’s that affable). The two are partners in a mediation firm, but they really live for wedding season, where they crash ceremonies and receptions, looking for the hot single women who inevitably get turned on by the proceedings (I think we all know that a wedding is a great place to meet someone). It’s at the wedding of a daughter of Secretary of the Treasury Cleary that Owen Wilson meets a woman he actually – gasp! – falls in love with.
Other than the basic wedding crashing concept (which is fun and surprisingly well thought out), there’s not much original in this film. But who cares? The mark of a good movie is often how it takes familiar concepts and stories – such as a guy who lies to a girl he falls in love with – and makes you forget that you’ve seen it all before.
Wedding Crashers is really made by its cast. Vaughn and Wilson work together wonderfully – they’re both filled to the brim with charisma, and the movie does a good job in setting up the fact that while what these guys do may be a touch sleazy, they’re usually the life of whatever reception they crash, making things more fun for everyone. These guys may have the end goal of getting laid at these weddings (and they do), but they also really have fun with the dancing and the kids and the bullshitting at the tables over dinner.
Christopher Walken is the Treasury Secretary, and he’s barely creepy, which I think means this role was a stretch for him. He’s still menacing, though, sort of like DeNiro in Meet the Parents only not quite as embarrassing. Jane Seymour is his wife, in an odder role – and one that feels truncated. She’s soused throughout, and all over Owen Wilson at the beginning, to the point of forcing him to feel her up, but then she’s out of the film.
Rachel McAdams is actually wonderful as Claire, the girl Owen Wilson falls for (and I keep calling the guys by their names because aren’t we supposed to? They spend most of the film going by fake names anyway, and they’re both playing up to their own perceived personas). The movie lets us know that she’s perfect because she can’t help sniggering at her sister’s inane nautical vows. For some reason, though, she’s dating Sack, played by Wet Hot American Summer’s Bradley Cooper. In a movie like this, where Wilson is going to have to steal her away, the boyfriend needs to be a creep, but The Wedding Crashers goes so over board in establishing Sack, a crypto-Kennedy with aggression and monogamy issues, as a bad guy that I was shocked he didn’t get a chance to rape an orphan or stomp a litter of kittens.
Isla Fisher’s name has been brought up as a possible Batman Begins 2 love interest – I think that’s probably bunk, but she’s pretty good here. While she’s got a look made for porn she keeps up with Vince Vaughn well. She’s another Cleary daughter, and she ends up being a clingy lunatic who runs Vince into the ground with midnight rapes and under the table handjobs. Watching him keep up with her gives some of the best comedy in the film, as Vaughn plays the smooth bastard and the sad bastard with equal aplomb. It’s rare that an actor can not only deserve his comeuppance but maintain your sympathy while getting it.
David Dobkin, who worked with Vaughn on Clay Pigeons and Wilson on Shanghai Knights, more or less steps out of the way of the comedy. It’s the right decision. He has capable actors here, with more chemistry than a meth lab, and he doesn’t try to do much more than present it. That said he orchestrates a really nice montage of wedding crashing that sets up the characters and the concepts better than I would have imagined, while keeping things funny and moving forward.
What really moves Wedding Crashers from a nice diversion to the level of a very good comedy is that it’s not stupid. It has broad moments – especially when a mystery guest actor is introduced as Chaz, the guy who invented wedding crashing (and while that actor’s name is on IMDB, I won’t spoil it here since I found the surprise to be great) and with some of Vince Vaughn’s travails – but it doesn’t rely on sheer wackiness or toilet jokes to be funny. Actually, it introduces a set up for serious toilet jokes when Wilson poisons Sack’s drink and the movie more or less lets it be.
A lot’s going to be made of the fact that the film is rated R, and I guess that’s noteworthy. There is some quick nudity in the film (all of women who just pop up, although Isla Fisher’s character is presented as naked I’m pretty sure it’s a body double), and a number of F bombs, none of which are really integral to the jokes or the dialogue. It’s not that film is rated R that I find interesting but that it’s about two guys who aren’t very young anymore, and it doesn’t have an overtly teen-friendly aspect (well, besides the tits and the comedy). The movie doesn’t pander, and it’s nice.
I really enjoyed Wedding Crashers. It’s yet another movie that seems to be not getting served by its advertising campaign, which paints it with a more boorish brush than it deserves. I don’t know if the film is a great comedy (like Anchorman, a movie people have compared it to in terms of quotability), but I do know that I would like to see it a couple of more times to figure that out. I also know that I would love to see Vaughn and Wilson teamed up again – it’s a great counterpoint to the work Wilson does with Ben Stiller.
8.7 out of 10