As a premise for comedy, a wedding is a fairly foolproof device, allowing characters who would ordinarily never cross paths to meet in increasingly tangled plot strands. You almost have to try to mess that up. Dennis Dugan has definitely messed up in Love, Weddings & Other Disasters, an unfunny, cliched and sometimes offensive romantic comedy, which he wrote and directed.
Jeremy Irons and Diane Keaton must have had better things to do, yet here they are. How bad are these roles? He plays Lawrence, a dapper, fussbudget high-end caterer in Boston, a widower whose friends stop by one day while he’s setting up an event. They tell him they have arranged a date for him with Sara (Keaton), but he barely notices because he is busy inspecting a table holding a tower of precariously-stacked champagne glasses.
Sara unexpectedly arrives, led by a guide dog. The friends never mentioned that she couldn’t see. And she immediately stumbles into the table, sending the glasses shattering on the floor. Believe it or not, the scene then doubles down on the blind jokes. Lawrence says he didn’t expect her, that his friends had merely mentioned something about a blind date — he means it metaphorically, he’s not a monster — and Sara jokingly chirps, “I think the politically correct term is visually impaired date.” Yikes. The supposed quip does nothing to offset the tastelessness at the core of the idea. It does hint at how unironically retro and tone-deaf the entire film is.
Keaton, in a fedora and cuffed jeans, displays her characteristically quirky fashion sense and delivery. Irons seems effortlessly charming. But they can’t overcome the corny story in which Lawrence instantly loosens up when he falls for the artsy, ebullient Sara. And the cringeworthy jokes keep coming. He is supposedly so obtuse that after a night together he leaves a love note under her pillow, which of course she can’t read.
Dugan is best known for directing some megahit Adam Sandler movies, including Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy. But Sandler is a genre all his own. That kind of broad, boorish humor doesn’t transfer well to a rom-com so conventional that a tour guide (Andy Bachelor) spots a woman with a glass slipper tattooed on her neck and spends the rest of the film searching for his Cinderella.
Although Irons and Keaton are the big names here, they make up only one thread of the eventually interlocking stories, which are shot with no more flair than a standard television sitcom. Maggie Grace is at the center as Jessie, whom we meet at the movie’s start in a plane forcing her boyfriend to skydive with her. When he breaks up with her mid-air she literally parachutes into a wedding taking place by a lake, sending the wedding party into the water. A viral video of her landing calls her The Wedding Trasher. Grace is energetic and perky but Jessie is a cipher, simply a ringleader holding all the plots together.
As those plots accumulate, Dugan leans hard on the idea of opposites attracting. One desperate couple hires Jessie as their wedding planner, even though she is really a florist. The groom is an uptight mayoral candidate who likes classical music and his more spontaneous fiancee is a rock fan. The best man is the groom’s screw-up brother, Jimmy (Andy Goldenberg), who appears on a reality dating show called Crash Couples. Dugan himself plays the reality show’s host, introducing mismatched couples, strangers who are chained together. Jimmy is paired with a Russian stripper (Melinda Hill) whose manager wants a cut of her prize money, which leads to more hackneyed scenes, as Russian thugs follow the chained couple around.
Crash Couples intentionally looks like a cheesy throwback and Dugan makes the host smarmy, so he isn’t entirely clueless. But whatever he was thinking, the film, and particularly those game-show scenes, are handled in such a clunky, straightforward way that it all becomes excruciating. One contestant, a tall woman referred to as an Amazon, is paired with a man three feet tall. Dugan is not some Dave Chappelle trying to push the envelope on politically correct humor here. The scene plays like a flat-out dwarf sight gag.
It may seem very on the nose that the word “disaster” is right there in the title, but then nothing seems too leaden for this fiasco.
Production Companies: Fortitude International, Align
Distributor: Saban Films
Cast: Diane Keaton, Jeremy Irons, Maggie Grace, Andrew Bachelor, Andy Goldenberg, Melinda Hill
Director and Screenwriter: Dennis Dugan
Producers: Dennis Dugan, Martin Metz, Adrian Politowsky, Dan Reardon, Nadine de Barros
Cinematography: Nick Remy Matthews
Production Designer: Michael C. Stone
Costume Designer: Vanessa Porter
Editor: Julie Garces
Music: Noah Needleman, Keaton Simons
Casting: Eyde Belasco, Lisa Lobel, Kim Miscia