Sunday, February 17, 2008

Edward Herrmann, How Could You?...

With no new Netflix arriving in my mailbox this weekend, and the breeze in Malibu being strong enough to whip sand into my face as I sat and tried to read "Duma Key," I retreated (defeatedly) back to curling up on my couch with VOD (hey, it's paying my bills now, so I might as well indulge and give back a bit, no?). After scrolling through at least a dozen titles I had already seen or currently had on my Queue, I settled on Wedding Daze (formally The Pleasure of Your Company), the directorial debut from Michael Ian Black. I expected a romantic comedy in the vein of Wedding Crashers... though that is probably only because both star Isla Fisher... what I got, though, was a gag-full American Pie-esque romp centering on two individuals with just the right amount of crazy that makes it hard to root for them either separately, let alone together.

When the opening credits rolled, I clapped with glee over the potential: Joanna Gleason (Kim from Friends) played Katie (Fisher)'s mother, a skeletal Joe Pantoliano as her father, Heather Goldenhersh (Lizzy Caplan's sister on The Class) as her best friend, and Matt Malloy as her adoptive father... not to mention the aforementioned Edward Herrmann as Anderson (Jason Biggs)'s father. Herrmann is a man I've loved since he played Macaulay Culkin's father in Richie Rich, and I will pretty much give anything he's in a try, allowing it the benefit of the doubt because he's such a classy, intelligent, distinguished actor that he must choose his projects with care. His first scene in Wedding Daze made me shake my head and exclaim: "Oh, Richard Gilmore, no. Just no!" as his on-screen wife licked whipped cream from his face. Unfortunately the ones that followed (presenting his son with his c*ck ring; watching two naked women less than half his age make out on a rug in front of a fire in his living room) just proved that not even the cast could save this crude romantic comedy.

Wedding Daze is one-part "getting to know each other" comedy and one part "race to the alter" gag-fest (and gag-fest is two-fold because the ridiculous use of prop humor, which is known as gags, is actually gag-inducing for the audience). The movie starts off simply enough: a young romantic's whole world crashes down around him when the girlfriend to whom he is in the middle of proposing collapses on the floor in front of him. He spirals, needless to say, and decides on an impetuous whim to propose to Katie, who is his current waitress in some roadhouse diner. Luckily, she is just as spontaneous (read: nuts) as he is, and though she had been pondering a proposal from her Charades-loving boyfriend (that's not a metaphor), she needs nothing but a split second to take him seriously and scream in joy and accept the hand (though no ring) of Anderson. Fisher is one of a handful of this generation’s true comedic gems, whose talent would be best suited in a female-centric piece in which she can really shine. Needless to say, Wedding Daze is not one such piece, and in it, she is forced to take a backseat to prop humor (a diaphragm ending up in a sandwich... is that the best you could do? Really?) and the much more one-note Biggs. He relies on his bright white smile to endear his audiences, but years after first winning them over as a big-eyed, geek-chic teenager, the act (like himself) has just grown old; he has not matured.

Katie and Anderson go through the usual dance of trying to fit into one another's worlds and overcoming the obstacles of different families and friends but still come out on the other side wanting to get married. I think they have known each other for about four days at that point. The movie picks up quickly from there, as the duo steal a car to elope, all the while Katie's mother and biological father hold up a hardware store to get their daughter the money for a proper wedding. Arresting chaos ensues, including a cameo standoff with Rob Corddry, and Katie delivers her "Despite all of our insane obstacles and the red flags advising us otherwise, I want to be with you" speech while both families are behind bars. Her words-from-the-heart (or perhaps the gun she shoots at the ceiling) is somehow enough to convince everyone (perhaps because it's the eighty-minute mark, and for a comedy this thin, that's nearing the end) because thirty seconds later, they are marching down the aisle at the little Atlantic City wedding chapel at which her own parents eloped twenty-odd years ago. The Reverend tells the happy couple that he can personally guarantee anyone who marries at his establishment will be happy forever, but it's way too late for the love affair with this thin-scripted movie.

(Though I will admit the "Jewnicorn" and "Jewlahoop" did elicit a chuckle.)

Wedding Daze should have ended there, but Black (who was a hybrid on this project) just couldn't end on a genuinely sweet (albeit completely unrealistic) moment. Instead, he gave us another six or seven minutes of drawn-out residual drama in the form of a mock-police standoff, at which point I had had more than enough and just ended the $3.95 rental prematurely. And in the words of my beloved Damian (Daniel Franzese): "I want my [four bucks] back!" Michael, I still love you for your witty Stella performances and snappy VH1 Countdown Lists commentary, but please, please, please stick to in front of the camera work until your sense of humor hits puberty.

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