The wedding yawner

The Wedding Planner

A friend of mine once accidentally took her conservative and frail grandmother to see Pulp Fiction; she was so psychologically scarred by the experience that she still always rates movies based on the "grandma-watchability" factor. The Wedding Planner, a highly-formulaic, painfully predictable and clean romantic comedy, pulls in very big on the grandma factor. There is a stray concrete penis that falls off a statue, but for the most part, this is a safe film that shamelessly attempts to pay homage to good-old fashioned romance and the institution that makes a lot of money out of it: marriage.

Mary Fiore (Jennifer Lopez) has a highly succesful career as a wedding planner. In the opening scene, she effortlessly keeps a wedding from falling to bits by giving a heartwarming pep talk to a nervous bride, sobering up the drunken father-of-the-bride, relocating a big-haired guest out of the video camera’s angle and talking the priest into not dashing off to the bathroom. She’s sophisticated, she’s cool, and she has no love life to speak of. Gasp! She has to eat her meals alone! She likes to be in control! Horrors! Her social life consists of Scrabble tournaments! Could a woman’s life possibly get any worse?

Well, she could always lose a pair of her Gucci shoes. Luckily, Mary just manages to save hers from a street grate as a dumpster accelerates its way towards her down one of those San Franciscan hills. The doughty Steve (Matthew McConaughey, sporting the most annoying accent since Kevin Costner in Thirteen Days) thinks she’s about to be hit and dashes across the street to save her. She’s literally swept off her feet. Audiences, however, won’t be.

Lopez can act. The scene where she realises her hair’s not perfect and her lippy requires reapplication demonstrates her watchability (I’m serious!); ditto for when she announces to her assistant (Judy Greer) that she’s a professional. McConaughey’s well cast as the hunk who’s basically a nice guy but, despite being a paediatrician, isn’t too intellectually demanding when it comes to choosing a life partner. But there’s little real chemistry between these two, beyond the stars we’re supposed to see sparkling in their eyes as they first dance together under the stars. Who care’s if they don’t get together?

There’s a twist, alas, as Mary (a name very close to the word marry, it’s pointed out in one pathetic moment) discovers that Steve is actually the fiance of her most important client ever, businesswoman extraordinaire, Fran Donolly (Brigette Wilson). Would Mary scheme and plot to win the heart of the man she’s fallen for? If your grandmother’s watching, certainly not.

Mary in fact eventually gives what we now see is a tired old pep talk to Fran when she has second thoughts about marrying Steve. Mary’s personal ethics may be noble, but she unwittingly reveals the emptiness and vacuity of her chosen profession with this speech that inevitably brings the bride-to-be to tears. "Not only is your marriage going to work, it’s going to last forever!" she gushes. Muriel’s Wedding this ain’t. You don’t need to be told the ending.

One distraction on-route to the inevitable sugary climax is worth mentioning. Mary’s father introduces an Italian stereotype – I mean immigrant – to Mary, in the hope she’ll marry him. He idiotically assumes somehow that Mary has agreed to be his wife; not knowing how to speak English well is one thing (even with an excruciatingly inauthentic Italian accent) but being scripted as an idiot just because you’re from another country is another. This part of the film stands out as being simply quite strange.

At least strange is interesting; such kind words can’t be said about the rest of the film. Save this up for when you have to take grandma out. Or better still, have grandma round in a few weeks and watch it on video.

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