'Serial Bad Weddings 2' ('Qu'est-ce qu'on a (encore) fait au Bon Dieu?'): Film Review
The cast and crew behind the 2014 hit French comedy are back with a sequel that co-stars Christian Clavier and Chantal Lauby.
Following up a breakout hit that scored a whopping 12 million admissions in France and grossed upwards of $174 million worldwide is not necessarily an easy task. But when that hit is a dopey high-concept comedy called Serial Bad Weddings, about a racist couple whose four daughters marry four minority men (an Arab, a Jew, an African and an Asian — insert “walk into a bar” joke here), the standard of achievement isn’t all that high.
The good news, then, is that Serial Bad Weddings 2 (Qu’est-ce qu’on a (encore) fait un bon dieu?) feels like a slight improvement on the first movie, delivering a few mild laughs amid a similar onslaught of overwrought gags, over-the-top performances and “can’t we all just get along?” messaging meant to lure Frenchies into theaters so they can chortle at their own cultural differences — if not at their countrymen’s latent racism. Based on opening numbers, with the movie raking in three million viewers in 10 days, it looks like the filmmakers will have their wedding cake and eat it again, too.
In the original film (released in 2014), vet comic actor Christian Clavier played a bigoted but somewhat likeable notaire named Claude Verneuil who lives in a Loire Valley mansion and is married to the equally bigoted Marie (Chantal Lauby). The hitch was that the white couple's three lovely daughters — Odile (Julia Piaton), Isabelle (Frederique Bel) and Segolene (Emile Caen) — had respectively married the Jewish David (Ary Abittan), the Algerian Rachid (Medi Sadoun) and the Chinese Chao (Frederic Chau). The icing on the wedding cake (sorry) was that their youngest daughter, Laure (Elodie Fontan), was about to marry the Ivoirian Charles (Noom Diawara).
All things, of course, ended well, with Claude and Marie learning to stop worrying and love their ethnic sons-in-law. In the sequel, the couple sets out on a monthlong visit to their new families in Israel, Algeria, China and the Ivory Coast, only to arrive home longing for France again. (Cue a shot of them stuffing their faces with brie and pâté.) The hitch this time is that their daughters aren’t only married to “foreigners” but are planning to move to foreign countries for personal or professional reasons, leaving Claude and Marie in a major bind.
This prompts one of the movie’s more amusing sequences, where the duo desperately pays off a bunch of locals to sell David, Rachid, Chao and Charles on the charms of French living. There’s a pretty good scene of them touring a winery with an African man hired by Claude to advertise his region’s cultural diversity. And another one where Claude is convinced that his Afghan gardener is a suicide bomber, even if it ends with a terrible banana-peel-level gag of the former smacking the latter with a shovel. Doing!
Some critics have taxed the Weddings franchise with racism because the films seem to be saying that everyone — white, black, French, Arab — is a bit of a racist at heart. But the movies also go on to show (in an all-too excruciatingly obvious way that reeks of opportunism, but still) that anyone, including bona fide bigots like Claude and Marie, can learn to move past their prejudices and accept other colors and cultures.
It’s perhaps wishful thinking, but the filmmakers are at least smart enough to make the old-fashioned Claude the brunt of most jokes, with his Ivoirian counterpart, Charle's father, Andre (Pascal Nzonzi), coming in at a close second when he’s unable to accept his daughter’s gay marriage. Each Weddings movie essentially tries to attack stereotypes by showing how silly they are, even if some of the jokes are so lame that they nearly undermine the discourse. (Cue the scene of Chao buying nunchaku and Shuriken in a weapons shop — although note that he’s doing so because he’s afraid of racist attacks in Paris.)
One problematic aspect of both pics is the character of David, who all-too easily lives up to the cliché of the flamboyant Sephardic Jew obsessed with making money and spending it on bling-bling cars and clothing. Unlike the other men — Chao is a successful investment banker, Rachid a secular criminal lawyer and Charles a serious actor — we never really see a flipside to David that goes against his stereotype, and he’s always trying to come up with, then failing to pull off, a new get-rich scheme. (In the film’s defense, characters like David have appeared in French comedies for some time, especially in the highly popular Would I Lie to You? series.)
Perhaps more troubling is the fact that both this and the last movie look like they were thrown together in a matter of days — development, production and editing included. They’re overlit, overacted and overtly shoddy when it comes to the plotting, with too many throwaway jokes and a mise-en-scene that’s both eye-burningly glitzy and utterly banal. In terms of the filmmaking, Serial Bad Weddings looks like a bad wedding video made with lots of French television funding. What may ultimately be most offensive about these movies is not what they’re trying to say, but how they say it.
Production companies: Les Films du Premier, Les Films du 24, TF1 Films Production
Cast: Christian Clavier, Chantal Lauby, Ary Abittan, Medi Sadoun, Frederic Chau, Noom Diawara, Frederique Bel, Julia Piaton, Emilie Caen, Elodie Fontan, Pascal Nzonzi
Director: Philippe de Chauveron
Screenwriters: Philippe de Chauveron, Guy Laurent
Producer: Romain Rojtman
Director of photography: Stephane Le Parc
Production designer: Olivier Seiler
Costume designer: Lisa Korn
Editor: Alice Polantin
Composer: Marc Chouarian
Casting director: Marie-France Michel
Sales: Orange Studio