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THE WEDDING PLANNER

Directed by Adam Shankman (2001, Columbia Pictures)
Starring Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey, Bridget Wilson, and Justin Chambers

A woman unwittingly falls for the groom in the wedding she is planning.

 

 

3 stars

September 9th, 2001 on Video  
    Very cute. There were a lot of very funny lines and moments up until about the halfway mark, when the film started to slow down. It picked up a bit more near the end again, though.

It is getting difficult to do a love triangle based on a wedding deadline without resorting to clichés these days. It seems that everything has been done. We can call the wedding off because one person realizes that he/she is in love with somebody else. We can breakup the wedding on the day, a day before, or even earlier. The bride and groom can get back together, or go their merry (or violent) ways, or can end up marrying the other person's intended spouse. They have all been done. The Wedding Planner takes it to a different level, where the two couples about to get married all decide that they cannot go through with it, because they are not with the ones they truly love. And as such, it seems... well, rather anticlimactic. But at the same time, it was kind of refreshing.

The character of Mary is shown right away to be a little insecure, even though she appears to have everything under control. She is a control freak, a perfectionist, which makes it very funny to watch her take control of everybody's wedding, from rearranging the flowers to getting the groomsmen into the church and detoxicating the father of the bride (the FOB went MIA!). But she doesn't have a glamorous home life, sitting in front of the TV eating dinner. She plays scrabble with her father and his elderly friends at the scrabble club. She hasn't had a date in three years. So her father brings Massimo, a boy she knew and hated as a child, over from Italy to marry her. 

It is not as strange as it seems, because her parents were in an arranged marriage themselves. Mary, though, is appalled, as most North American brides would be, I think. Massimo thinks he is the top stud, though he is not as over-the-top as he could have been, and we think that maybe he would be a good husband, anyway. Eventually, we learn that he is the most down-to-earth person in the whole love triangle (or rectangle). Even when Mary tells him that she doesn't want anything to do with him, and he promises that they could just be friends (and he makes her Kraft dinner!) he knows what his heart really wants. He proposes to her using a doll house, and by that time, she knows that she couldn't do better than him. Some would call it "settling" for him, but she knows that she won't get the romantic dream. But when they get to city hall for the marriage, Massimo knows that her heart does not belong to him, and he releases her, refusing to marry her. It is hilarious the way her father objects the the marriage, knowing that his daughter won't be happy. Then the old woman says "thank God!", and the old security man says "hell, I object too!" The comedy was presented at just the right time, breaking the sentimentality perfectly.

Because Mary has just met this great guy. Steve saves her from a runaway dumpster (she is trying to save her shoe, showing instantly her mixed-up priorities), and has taken care of her in the children's ward at his hospital. The children surrounding her were adorable, giving their diagnoses ("it was touch and go for a while...") to the doctor! She and her excitable assistant invite him to the movies in the park, where they have a very romantic evening, even dancing, until the rain starts at just the right moment, just as they were about to kiss. Everything seems perfect...

Until, of course, he turns out to be the groom-to-be at the next big wedding she is planning. She gives him the evil eye, berating him in private, until he has to save her again, this time from a runaway horse. The fiancé, Fran, has no idea what is going on, though she can sense some tension between the two of them. On the way to check out a potential site for the wedding, Fran asks Mary how her relationship with her mystery dancer in the park is going. Steve nearly drives off the road! Mary gets in a subtle stab in the back as she explains that he turned out to be the groom at a wedding she is planning, and the reaction by Fran is one of disgust.

They go through several more of these instances, Steve turning the tables on Mary when he finds out about Massimo. Then they have some fun together picking out statues (Steve gets his hand glued to the penis of a statue he knocked over), and flowers, until Mary runs into her ex-fiancé, whom she found making out with a best friend on the night of their rehearsal. Completely depressed, she gets drunk, and there is a really, really nice tender moment where Steve has to get her into her apartment and carry her upstairs to her room. Once again, with candles lit (and Steve roasting tiny marshmallows over the tiny flames), things get romantic. But Steve leaves, only to return telling her that the movie in the park was the most incredible thing he has ever done, and wanting more. 

She realizes that she has to put a stop to this right now, and tells him to leave. But it doesn't really end there, because Steve and Fran have a conversation right before they are supposed to walk down the aisle, each agreeing, in a very adult way, that they are getting married simply because it is the next logical step; they have been together for so long that they don't know anything else. Fran gets into a cab, while Steve goes to City Hall to catch up with Mary before she gets married. 

In a cruel twist of fate, Steve ends up in the taxi driven by the guy who smashed into the dumpster at the beginning of the film, causing it to roll down the street and accost Mary! When he gets to City Hall, Mary is not there. Massimo drives Steve on his moped to the movie park, where he finds Mary and they dance and kiss, and presumably live happily ever after. It was a little disappointing not to see their wedding, though. The moped scenes were absolutely hilarious, once again. First, the fact that he is most comfortable on the moped is easy to believe after visiting Italy a couple of years ago, where there were hardly any cars (at least in Sorrento, a small town on the southern coast). But he had a small veil on the extra helmet, which Steve wore, and a "Just Married" sign on the back. And when they cut into a marathon, the runners all exclaim their good wishes and congratulations!

Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey had terrific chemistry together. They looked like they truly belonged together. The way they fell in love, the way the bickered, and the way they acted as mature adults together felt extremely natural. It was amazing to see. There was also good chemistry between Mary and her frazzled co-worker, who admired her, but couldn't handle the responsibility. She was absolutely hilarious, but is absent for almost the entire second half of the movie.

There were a lot of fun moments, which made the movie very cute in execution. The whole opening section of the film had tremendous energy, and had so many funny moments, which were connected with reasonable threads of story. But it couldn't hold up through the whole thing. I guess a nice slow section is required in the middle of a movie of this sort, because it is a romance, which requires that the characters go through some soul searching, which is not normally very funny. And it was still quite enjoyable. This is a film that is easy to recommend, because it has so many of the right elements, and the actors were so good.
 
   

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