Mother of the Bride

Self-awareness can either make or break a movie.  In 2008, the feature adaptation of Mamma Mia! was considered a crowd-pleaser by those who were swept up in the fun being had on screen.  But, personally, I found the movie to be conceited and distracted by its joy;  so much so that it felt like the movie existed in its own impenetrable bubble for those who either liked the original stage musical or the music of ABBA.  Its aim was to please a pre-invested fanbase, which was a bummer for an outsider.

On the other side of the scale is Mother of the Bride, a Netflix Original that “gets it”.  While both movies are centred around a lavish wedding set in a destination hotspot, Mother of the Bride is only aware of what its at-home audience would appreciate.  Obvious fish-out-of-water gags are handled with small reactions or quick-witted dialogue, instead of calling attention to the glaring comedic contrasts.  Occasional outbursts are still planned, but only because they contribute to broader slapstick jokes.  And while the plot involving two middle-aged star-crossed parents has its farfetched moments, screenwriter Robin Bernheim (The Princess Switch) pitches believable answers that help tide the audience over.  It’s also Mark Waters’ best film in a very long time, a director who may have helmed Freaky Friday and Mean Girls but is often reserved as a hired gun for fluff like Vampire Academy or Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.

Brooke Shields (channeling the same wavelength as her previous Netflix flick A Castle for Christmas) plays Lana, a highly respected doctor who has swamped herself in so much research, that she’s forgotten to stay in touch with her daughter Emma (Miranda Cosgrove, last seen in Drugstore June).  Emma, recently engaged, is thrown into the streamlined flow of her all inclusive wedding in Phuket, Thailand.  She enjoys the process, even though the wedding planning is often out of her control.  Emma’s fiancé RJ (Sean Teale) shows concern, but Emma tells him not to worry.  Meanwhile, Lana’s world comes to a halt when she finally meets RJ’s father Will (Miss Congeniality’s Benjamin Bratt), a dashing divorcé who ditched her during a past romance.  The drama is equipped with an all-star “Greek chorus” that the filmmakers of Mamma Mia! would be jealous of (Wilson Cruz of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, MadTV alum Michael McDonald, and comedian Rachael Harris).

The arcs are somewhat predictable, but Mother of the Bride perseveres by being hot and hilarious.  The scenery is attractive, but so are the compatible actors.  Shields and Bratt make a good on-screen pair and sell their characters’ revisited romance well.  Cosgrove and Teale, while not as experienced in leading roles, are cute and convincing too.  When the story ends too early and Mother of the Bride has twenty more minutes to fill, the chemistry on screen is so strong that the audience doesn’t mind coasting with the cast.  Bernheim’s script has a final, funny surprise, but there could’ve been more of a lead-up.

Mother of the Bride could be that hidden gem for those looking to cool off with a bright ‘n breezy flick.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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