Take Two

by Michael Bowen & r & The Wedding Crashers -- Why crash a wedding? It's the bridesmaids, stupid. Not to mention definitely free food, possibly free drinks and a chance to snort like a bull in the china shop of other people's emotions.

You get to drink and dance and have meaningless sex and never grow up: It's every frat boy's dream.

The Wedding Crashers ends up as a romantic comedy, delightful if formulaic. But the narrative hook gets to the idealized conclusion by starting with some anti-romantic questions: How can two snarky divorce mediators, using a secret set of "rules," hook up with women at wedding receptions? Will either of them grow up enough to deserve the girl?

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn make a very good comedy team, full of contrasts. Wilson (The Life Aquatic) isn't so much an actor, however, as a personality: He offers the same tousle-haired puppy-dog vulnerability in all his movies, using his Texas drawl to deliver dry stingers. In contrast, Vaughn (Dodgeball) is manic, firing off machine-gun explanations of why he doesn't like conventional dating and how complicated it is to steer women into bed. Vaughn's character is more cynical, so of course he reveals an idealistic side; he's physically much bigger, so of course he's the one who's reduced to helplessness.

They arrange scenarios for overcoming wedding hosts' suspicions -- we're war veterans, we're the heirs to a maple syrup fortune. Then, in a rapid-fire rock-video sequence of five different wedding receptions, underscored by the Isley Brothers singing "Shout!" we see Wilson and Vaughn dancing, schmoozing, chugging, fibbing and getting lucky. They're partying, they're role-playing, they're guys who will live, hedonistically, forever. And just when you think that'll be this movie's chief attraction, Wilson has a line that signals the romantic-comedy denouement that lies ahead: "We go to weddings," he says, "to witness examples of true love." Aww.

Some will think the R-rated bawdiness is out of place in a wedding-bells plot. But these two Peter Pans need to learn how to get past self-gratification -- not without allowing us to revel in it with them for a while -- before they can merit their own examples of true love.

Rachel McAdams (The Notebook) plays the love interest, and she's introduced as a woman who's imaginative (at a wedding reception, she plays along with Wilson's improvised identity) and sarcastic (she cracks up at her own sister's hokey wedding vows) -- so you know she's a good match. With that radiant smile, with those misgivings about her bigwig father (Christopher Walken) and hyper-competitive fiance (Bradley Cooper), McAdams combines beauty and intellect to make a fine leading lady.

Shooting on location in Washington, D.C., had a couple of unexpected benefits. In a movie about serial belt-notchers, it's no accident that the Washington Monument, phallic, makes several lingering appearances. And at the big-shot society wedding of one of Walken's daughters, a couple of real-life Beltway power brokers make cameo appearances: Sen. John McCain and James Carville.

So it was the bridesmaids, stupid. But bridesmaids have a way of turning into brides and making guys grow up. In the case of The Wedding Crashers, that leads to smiles that are predictable but still plenty of fun.