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On Dec. 20, 1991, Nancy Meyers, Steve Martin and Diane Keaton unveiled their remake of Father of the Bride, a commercial hit in its initial run and a holiday TV staple. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below.
Comparisons may be invidious, but here they are inevitable. This Touchstone remake of Father of the Bride, the 1950 MGM feature starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor, has taken Vincente Minnelli’s resonant, human comedy and reduced it to a series of sitcom gags about the awful bother of throwing a $150,000 wedding.
With little in the way of character insight to concentrate on, budget-conscious audiences, enjoying a rare night out in the middle of a prolonged recession, have nothing to sympathize with but the spending problems of wealthy, materialistic Southern Californians. Bad art should make for bad business.
This time out, a game Steve Martin stars as the surprised father, George Banks, whose little, grown-up girl, 22-year-old Annie (newcomer Kimberly Williams), suddenly announces her engagement to a nice, but previously unknown, suitor, Bryan MacKenzie (George Newbern). With the enthusiastic help of her mother Nina (Diane Keaton), Annie plunges into preparations for a fancy gala, even hiring a strangely accented Melrose Ave. wedding consultant, Franck Eggelhoffer (Martin Short).
Unlike Tracy’s character, Martin’s dad doesn’t embark on a voyage of self-discovery so much as trip over every possible wedding accoutrement that gets strewn in his path or do double and triple takes at the merest provocation. The film’s sole dramatic preoccupations are with broad physical comedy and unrealistically offbeat characterizations; a few moments of nominal pathos are really just structural pauses in the joke series.
Several noticeable patches of dialogue from the original script by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, particularly in George Banks’ voiceover narration (like the original, the movie is related in flashback), pop up, and the basic story structure is there as well; no doubt this accounts for their full screenplay credit shared with Nancy Meyers and director Charles Shyer (no mention at all is made of Edward Streeter’s original novel).
The update concentrates on adding contemporary detail — Banks is an athletic-shoe manufacturer — or physical gags, the latter handled with minimal skill by Shyer.
The entire production has an air of unreality about it, from the super-neat whitewashed Banks home to Kimberly’s virginal demeanor, going to the movie is like visiting a theme park called Fifties Land.
Martin doesn’t have the kind of openness that would make his crotchety father continuously sympathetic, although he gives every indication of trying. Keaton is mostly pushed to the side by the comic business, represented by Short and B.D. Wong (who plays Short’s assistant, an Asian American with a Jewish sounding name).
As the groom, Newbern is mostly just decoration, as is Williams’ Annie, although the rookie, who is already suburban-pretty, pushes her cuteness too far. For the record, Kieran Culkin makes brief appearances as the bride’s little brother. — Henry Sheehan, originally published Dec. 9, 1991.