Before getting into what's wrong with Wedding Crashers, it's important to underline what's right with it. The R-rated comedy is wonderfully cast, enthusiastically performed and funny - consistently funny - with moments that are downright hilarious. Leading men Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn make a dandy team, each complementing and challenging the character of the other while adroitly navigating through their latest scam.
(Left to right) Owen Wilson as "John" and Vince Vaughn as "Jeremy"
They are enjoyable enough to make it possible to forgive, or at least put up with, a number of problems. Wedding Crashers starts off as an inventive and unrestrained showcase for two outrageous bad boys, only to turn into an overstuffed romantic comedy. At nearly two hours, the film is too long; a trim of 25-30 minutes would have helped a lot. Repetitive and mundane elements concerning a relationship breakup could easily have been removed, along with a "secret, surprise" celebrity cameo appearance towards the end that inflicts a near-fatal blow to the proceedings.
The story: Meet John (Wilson) and Jeremy (Vaughn), a pair of Washington, D.C., divorce mediators that spend each summer crashing weddings to eat and drink hearty, socialize and pick up women for one-night stands. Weddings, they reason, put the female guests in a romantic mood and the alcohol and party atmosphere lowers their inhibitions. The boys carefully research each ceremony so they can best determine how to crash the nuptials by hiding in plain sight. The film is at its finest as we watch the glib duo ad-lib their way from one celebration to the next.
Then it happens. At the wedding for the daughter of Treasury Secretary William Cleary (Christopher Walken in a throwaway role), John falls for Claire (Rachel McAdams), one of the bridesmaids, a clear violation of the wedding crasher rules. Jeremy, meanwhile, hooks up with Gloria (Isla Fisher), another of Cleary's daughters. She latches onto him with a vengeance and invites both men to a post-reception get-together with her family. Jeremy normally would have headed for the nearest exit, but John, eager to pursue matters with Claire, coerces him into going.
McAdams and Fisher are smart and colorful additions to the production. Alas, with their appearances the screenplay takes a turn towards triteness (funny triteness, but still ... ) as the boys head off with the Cleary clan. John discovers that Claire is engaged to Sack (Bradley Cooper), a highly aggressive hustler. While he tries to work around the fiancé, Jeremy struggles to escape the clutches of Claire, who turns out to be a "clinger" with psycho tendencies.
Enter the sitcom family. Secretary Cleary is a Kennedy-esque philanderer, his wife Kathleen (Jane Seymour) is a Mrs. Robinson type with eyes for John, his son Todd (Keir O'Donnell) is a self-loathing gay artist with eyes for Jeremy and Grandma Cleary (Ellen Albertini Dow) is - oh please - sassy and politically incorrect.
As the clichés build up the film bogs down. The laughs continue, to be sure, but more work has to be done for each payoff. The film appears to be about to reach its predictable conclusion, but no. Instead, we are forced to watch the downfall of one of the characters, including a long stretch depicting the character hitting bottom. Even worse, the filmmakers present the aforementioned "secret, surprise" celebrity cameo appearance. I won't reveal the identity of the performer, but I will tell you this: Not only is he unfunny here, he sucks the funniness out of all those around him. Every moment featuring the performer - hell, the entire subplot - should have been excised from the final cut of the film.
Wedding Crashers is a mess. But it is a funny mess (celebrity cameo section aside) and Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, along with their female co-stars, maintain their appeal all the way through the idiotic climax. The film is far from what it should have been, but what it is will do well enough for now. Ahem.