Romantic comedies can get away with just about any sort of off-the-wall, clichéd nonsense as long as the film sports genuine charisma. The power of uplifting attitudes and chemistry can help viewers go along with unusual plots and characters, and also convince the audience to root for silly love stories.
Love, Weddings & Other Disasters wants to defy the sub-genre’s rule of thumb. I would be impressed if I wasn’t so baffled. Filmmaker Dennis Dugan, returning to the director’s chair since his snoozy efforts in Happy Madison’s dismal Grown Ups 2, proposes a challenge: if a rom-com abandoned all charisma and doubled down on outrageous concepts, would the movie be better?
Perhaps inspired by the work of holiday movies made by the late Garry Marshall, Dugan’s Love, Weddings & Other Disasters showcases an array of one-dimensional characters, all starring in their own wacky sitcom plots. I considered listing each zany dynamic in this review, but it may provoke readers to see the movie to believe it. I think the most absurd dynamic that best summarizes the desperate schmaltz and humour of Love, Wedding & Other Disasters is the relationship that forms between wedding planner Lawrence (Jeremy Irons) and a blind photographer Sara (Diane Keaton) after they’ve been paired on a blind date (which Sara corrects is actually a “visually-impaired date” to Lawrence’s dismay). He’s uptight, she’s kinda quirky, and together they learn how to let down their personal guard. Instead of developing these two characters past their logline traits, Dugan’s script aims for lowbrow laughs and has Keaton fumble and fall all over the place. A montage of Lawrence sweetening up and voluntarily blindfolding himself to observe how Sara “sees” life will make your mouth drop and your stomach curdle.
Love, Weddings & Other Disasters is charmless and laughless, and repeats that same combo for the majority of its runtime with the last third attempting to rope in all of the subplots into one accumulative “feel-good” finale. The movie goes from its vapid Valentine’s Day/Mother’s Day influences to taking a big swing to emulate Love Actually’s high-wire act. It’s an ambitious Hail Mary for the movie to make but, with every obvious piece the narrative prepares, it’s every bit as convoluted and sloppy as we expect as the mechanics of the movie ache, grind, and heave towards its ridiculous ending.
Of course increasing the zaniness wouldn’t pay off for Love, Weddings & Other Disasters. Wacky concepts, whether they’re initially funny or not, have to be supported; either by interesting performances or by considerate direction. Without support, the film stalls. Without momentum, we realize just how witless the movie is, and we begin missing the bubblegum fluff we took for granted before.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie