- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2001

The popularity of "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and, to a lesser extent, "Muriel's Wedding," both released in 1994, seems to have reminded Hollywood that the booby-trapped marriage ceremony can be a swell romantic-comedy pretext.
Since then we have had "The Wedding Singer," "My Best Friend's Wedding" (from the director of "Muriel's Wedding"), "Runaway Bride," "Mickey Blue Eyes," "The Wood," "The Best Man," "Dr. T & the Women" and now "The Wedding Planner," which sets up Jennifer Lopez to fall in love at first sight with Matthew McConaughey shortly before she discovers he's the groom in one of the ceremonies she has been contracted to supervise.
The most agreeable and clever segment of the movie is the setup, which requires about half an hour and introduces us to heroine Mary Fiore, who lives for work in San Francisco. Indeed, she has her thriving professional life under such masterful control that you sort of look forward to the disruptions contrived to throw her off-balance.
She's phenomenal on the job, prepared for every possible mishap. We watch her reassure a bride on the verge of panic, revive a boozy dad threatening to lapse into mumbles and slumber and reposition a guest whose hair threatens to obstruct the view of those seated behind her.
Mary, it appears, has a solution for everything. Having landed the ceremony of a corporate heiress named Francine (Bridgette Wilson, now sporting her own sports-intensive married name, Wilson-Sampras), Mary is preparing for this posh affair when near-disaster intrudes: She catches a Gucci heel in a manhole and needs to be rescued from the path of a runaway dumpster by Mr. McConaughey as on-the-spot pediatrician Steve Edison.
Writers Pamela Falk and Michael Ellis and director Adam Shankman keep their synthetic but cute and promising getaway rolling through the immediate aftermath of the sudden encounter. Mary regains consciousness in the children's ward and finds a batch of Dr. Edison's little patients hovering over her.
A casual date follows: movie-going in the park. There's a pointless blunder at that point: A black-and-white RKO logo gives way to scenes from the 1955 musical version of "My Sister Eileen," a color feature released by Columbia, which has survived long enough to offer us "The Wedding Planner."
Can we expect slip-ups that have something to do with the plot of this budding love story? You bet. The movie date has its charms, even with the messed-up inserts, and so does the follow-up sequence in which Mary discovers that Dr. Edison has a prior commitment to Francine. The question becomes: Can the film make it over the next wave of humps, which involve rationalizing the Mary-Steve match without making them appear unforgivably devious and dishonorable?
The answer, with a vengeance, is no. Pratfalls and special pleading replace the more or less deft introductory footwork. Circumstances conspire to throw Mary and Steve together in progressively dopey ways. She must be rescued a second time, while horseback riding. She crawls around on hands and knees during a flower-shopping excursion but still can't avoid bumping into the old boyfriend who jilted her, one of several expendable pitches for sympathy.
A widowed, oblivious Sicilian-American dad (played by Alex Rocco, who seems to be having a painful time simulating an accent) insists on being Mary's Cupid. His candidate is an amorous young simpleton from the Old Country named Massimo (Justin Chambers), supposedly a playmate of Mary's from years gone by. They don't impress you as contemporaries. It would be more plausible to believe that Massimo got a permanent crush on Mary when she was his baby sitter.
To make a crumbling love story short, romance is spoiled by one botched complication after another. An unsatisfactory remedy supposedly saves the day as Steve and Francine prepare to close ranks at a huge wedding in Golden Gate Park. Simultaneously, Mary trudges toward City Hall to sacrifice herself to Massimo. This fix requires a third ride to the rescue, in a cab that somehow can't get from one location to the other without getting weirdly sidetracked around Fisherman's Wharf.
Presumably, it's the cabbie's first day in San Francisco. The filmmakers just forget to insert the slapstick sequence that explains his confusion.
He's not the only lost soul in town. As the picture unravels, you have plenty of time to second-guess it as a vehicle for Miss Lopez, whose comedy technique remains at the apprentice level at best. She seems to be floundering in a trifle better suited to Sandra Bullock.
The tentative chemistry between the co-stars also fizzles as the script fails them with stupid antics and sappy dialogue. Steve and Francine aren't the only ones who seem to have been cheated of a splashy wedding spectacle in the middle of Golden Gate Park.

1 and 1/2 out of four stars
TITLE: "The Wedding Planner"
RATING: PG-13 (Fleeting profanity and sexual allusions)
CREDITS: Directed by Adam Shankman. Screenplay by Pamela Falk and Michael Ellis.
RUNNING TIME: About 110 minutes


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