Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to witness an all star cast caught in various compromising positions over one chaotic wedding weekend. Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton play Don and Ellie, a long-divorced couple whose adopted son (Ben Barnes) asks them to pretend to be married to keep his Catholic biological mother happy when she arrives from Colombia for his big day with Missy (Amanda Seyfried). The roguish Don has no good reason to refuse. But as the charades begin, his girlfriend (Susan Sarandon), estranged daughter (Katherine Heigl), and 29-year-old virgin other son (Topher Grace) find it hard to hold their peace.
Robert De Niro
This is one of those farces you come away from thinking the French would have done better. Then you discover that the French have already done it, and better.
Based on Mon frère se marie - a bit of Gallic haw-hee-haw from 2006 - The Big Wedding is written and directed by one Justin Zackham, who is credited with coining the term 'bucket list'. Thus he must also take the blame for the clapped-out Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman vehicle for which it was coined.
Following that debacle, there's every chance 'big wedding' could give Justin his second Oxford dictionary entry in a row, being a term for any comedy in which characters outnumber laughs by at least ten to one. "Did you see American Pie 3?" "Nah, I heard it was a big wedding".
That said, it's nice to see Robert De Niro playing a fun-loving patriarch after doing the grumpy old man routine to death in the Meet the Parents trilogy, Everybody's Fine and Silver Linings Playbook.
He's Don (head of the family, geddit?), a successful sculptor who reunites with his ex-wife Ellie (Keaton) after ten years to see their adoptive son Alejandro (Barnes) marry his sweetheart Missy (Seyfried).
With Don agreeing to hold the wedding at the old family home, Ellie arrives to the sight of Don and his long-term girlfriend Bebe (Sarandon) about to get down-and-dirty in the kitchen. Sadly, the comedy goes downhill from there.
This becomes apparent when we meet Don and Ellie's older kids - Lyla (Heigl), an unhappily married lawyer with a secret, and Jared (Grace), a doctor who is still a virgin at 29, for no particular or mirth-making reason.
In fact, reason never comes into it as Alejandro soon kiboshes his own wedding by insisting that Don and Ellie pretend to be married just to please his devoutly religious biological mother (Patricia Rae) when she jets in from Colombia with his uninhibited sister (Ana Ayora).
Why? What possible reason could everyone have for pandering to a colossal hypocrite who gave up her son for adoption so that he "could have a better life", only to look disapprovingly on the "better life" he's obviously been given?
Even overlooking the wobbly premise, it's still painfully unconvincing to watch as Bebe is pushed to the sidelines and Don turns his priapic sights on Ellie, while Jared also undergoes a remarkable change in sexual attitude.
Farce is supposed to be far-fetched but without a single credible relationship to ground it, this really is a sorry charade. Even Robin Williams looks defeated as a deadpanning priest.
Structurally too, it's a leaden-footed procession of narrative fudges in search of a punchline. Individual traits and quirks (Alejandro's language skills, Bebe's love of pugs, Don's vertigo) are introduced for one-off gags and then discarded, and the slapstick scenes are so lame they should have curtains drawn around them.
Not one for your bucket list.