Father of the Bride (1991)

Father of the Bride (1991)Synopsis: A Comedy About Letting Go.

In this hilarious update of the much-loved Hollywood classic, Steve Martin turns in a winning performance as George Banks, the befuddled father who has a hard time letting go of his young daughter when she unexpectedly announces her plans to wed. Tickling funnybones and touching hearts of critics and audiences alike, this entertaining treat chronicles George’s hysterical trials and tribulations leading up to the big event. Diane Keaton shines as George’s patient, level-headed wife, while funnyman Martin Short light up the screen as the off-the-wall wedding consultant. Father Of The Bride promises to love, honor, and deliver the kind of motion picture fun you’ll thoroughly enjoy!

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Father of the Bride (1991) 7.25

eyelights: Martin Short’s performance.
eyesores: the picture’s lack of subtlety.

“I used to think a wedding was a simple affair. Boy and girl meet, they fall in love, he buys a ring, she buys a dress, they say I do. I was wrong. That’s getting married. A wedding is an entirely different proposition.”

Do you remember a time when Steve Martin was funny? Like, genuinely, side-splittingly funny? There was a time when he was – even I, for all my complaints now, would admit that. Let’s face it, Martin was terribly funny in his early works, such as ‘Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid‘, ‘The Man With Two Brains’, ‘The Lonely Guy‘ amongst others. He was also had hilarious moments in ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’, even though I don’t find the movie especially funny.

But it all ended with ‘Father of the Bride’, in 1991.

A remake of the 1950 Spencer Tracy classic, it was a massive box office hit for Martin, grossing 90 million dollars on a 20 million dollar budget and it even spawned a sequel a few years later. But it would be the last big hit that he’d have for at least a decade – and even then, his most recent hits are usually widely panned by critics. Plus which they’re mostly remakes of older movies, such as the woefully unfunny ‘The Pink Panther‘ from 2006.

‘Father of the Bride’ certainly isn’t the cause of his downfall. If anything, it was his desire to branch out that killed his comic career. I couldn’t make any assertions as to exactly why he wanted to step away from comedy, but it’s clear that something changed around the time of ‘Roxanne‘, when he decided to stop playing the “wild and crazy guy” and wanted to seen as a more sensitive, multifaceted actor. Soon after, he wanted to be taken seriously.

In ‘Father of the Bride’, he plays a straight man thrown into subtly absurd situations after his daughter comes home from college to announce that she intends to get married – to a young man he has never met. From there, he gets caught up in an out-of-control wedding plan that is costing him a fortune and driving him to the edge (much like its predecessor, which follows a very similar structure, character dynamics, scenarios and gags).

It’s so similar to the original that one could say that the 1991 version is really just a modernization of the 1950 classic, with a few new scenes surgically inserted to add to play on modern sensibilities and expectations, including a couple of scenes of the father and daughter bonding over some driveway basketball and a scene that has the father in a goofy routine while he and his spouse are visiting their soon-to-be in-laws at their lavish home.

Some of the more modern updates are that the father is a manufacturer of “athletic footwear” (i.e. running shoes) instead of being a lawyer. He’s also extremely rich, even though his wealth comes from a different source. There are also some dialogues with feminist overtones that I found refreshing given that you wouldn’t find such mention in a mass market films today; it reminded me that I was raised in that era, perhaps explaining my own views.

As with the original, the cast is pretty good. Steve Martin lacks the subtlety and dignity of Spencer Tracy (who wouldn’t have googly-eyed his way through the picture), but he’s okay. Kimberley Williams was no Elizabeth Taylor, but she’s passable (I don’t know why I crushed on her so much back then. Hmmmph). Diane Keaton was the biggest surprise because she took a backseat, letting her costars stand out even though she had equal screen time.

This version of the classic film is perfectly entertaining, even as it shows its age. My biggest beef with it, truth be told is with the out-of-control consumerism that it heralds as though it were inevitable and essential. The fact that people thought it normal to pay 250$ a head for a wedding, and that there would be 500+ guests to start, is absolutely insane! Who are these people who would dump $100-200,000 on a bloody wedding?!!!

Disgusting. And this is in 1990 money. Think about it.

The worst was that his spouse wanted him to be okay with the cost, as if it could be justified. But it’s just not okay: marriage is not about mortgaging your house, it’s about committing to someone for the rest of your life! And even then, that’s questionable these days. So the idea that one would plunk down the cost of a house on such a celebration is hard to digest. I keep thinking of the many ways that money could be put to better use. Le sigh…

The one thing that I feel stands out in this version of the picture, was Martin Short as the flamboyant wedding planner with an outrageous accent. I’m no great fan of his, but I found his performance phenomenal; how he managed that accent and spoke it so effortlessly and at lightspeed is beyond me. Interestingly, nothing he says is essential to the story, so if we don’t understand him, as the father (and myself) didn’t, then it doesn’t matter.

But, otherwise, this version of ‘Father of the Bride’ is pretty much a carbon copy of its forbear. Granted, it’s not nearly as subtle, especially where Martin’s performance is concerned, but it’s a relatively faithful recreation of the same story. I suppose that it’s the film I would recommend to people who simply can’t bear to watch black and white pictures. Otherwise, you might as well go with the original; it has a charm that this one didn’t quite equate.

Even if it did get the laughs.

Dates of viewings: April 26-7, 2015

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