“Wedding Crashers” proves, if there were any doubt, that just about anyone can direct the so-called “Frat Pack” — Vince Vaughn, brothers Owen and Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller and Will Farrell — and end up with a more-or-less funny movie.
It also might be the first comedy in recent memory that succeeds in bridging the gap between lad-movie misogyny and chick-flick romance. It took director David Dobkin (“Shanghai Knights”) two flabby hours to pull it off, but pull it off he did.
The movie, set in the District and on a blue-blood estate on the Eastern Shore, stars Mr. Vaughn and Mr. Wilson as a pair of infantile thirtysomethings who specialize in soft-landing divorce mediations. Their avocational specialty is to crash weddings, which they have discovered are target-rich environments for skirt chasing. The reason: Matrimonial desperation renders single women easy prey for sweet-talking suitors.
John Beckwith (Mr. Wilson) and Jeremy Klein (Mr. Vaughn) do more than sweet-talk. They assume identities and follow a secret-society rule book about wedding crashing. Occasionally they bring props, such as Purple Hearts, for a deal-closing edge.
It’s incredibly crass, yes, but very funny. The whole thing nearly flames out early with a feverish montage of ethnic humor, drunken antics and hotel-room encounters, all set to the Isley Brothers’ wedding-reception chestnut “Shout.”
Then John starts to come down with an attack of scruples, pondering the meaning of it all, or at any rate the meaning of meaningless sex. Such softheartedness is better suited to Luke Wilson than to his brother, known in tabloid land as the Butterscotch Stallion, but Owen’s job is made easy by the counterpoint of the ever-agile Mr. Vaughn and his gift of gross gab.
John’s scruples level shoots to Defcon 5 during a crash of the high-stakes wedding of a daughter of U.S. Treasury Secretary William Cleary (played with predictably creepy intimidation by Christopher Walken).
The action lurches from Washington National Cathedral — how’s this for a two-outfit affair? — all the way to the Eastern Shore, where John and Jeremy plant themselves too deeply for their customary easy extrication. Jeremy winds up with the secretary’s youngest daughter, Gloria (Isla Fisher), a can-only-exist-on-paper kind of character I can only describe as a virginal nymphomaniac.
Gloria insists the crashers (just ignore the absurdity of their passing themselves off as Cleary relatives) stay for the weekend, and John is only too willing to say yes, as he’s smitten — like, for real — by Cleary daughter Claire (“Mean Girl” Rachel McAdams).
The first night at the bayside manse is hilarious. Jane Seymour turns up as the Cleary wife, and it becomes apparent from whom Gloria inherited her libido. Ellen Albertini Dow, as Grandma Mary, injects some time-warped, politically incorrect humor, while Keir O’Donnell plays the brood’s sexually ambiguous black sheep.
Things start to drag with a will-she-or-won’t-she-marry subplot involving Claire and her hotheaded blue-blood fiance, during which John becomes inconsolably hopeless at the thought of living without Claire. Cynicism is restored briefly by the surprise appearance of one of the core Frat Packers — introduced dramatically in silhouette.
By the final reel, you notice that the movie meant its love story in earnest. Possibly, this mixture of mooniness and malice will alienate one or both of the movie’s target demographics — that is, men and women.
Or, alternately, it’ll be the broadest hit of the summer.
TITLE: “Wedding Crashers”
RATING: R (Profanity; sexual content; nudity)
CREDITS: Directed by David Dobkin. Produced by Peter Abrams, Robert L. Levy and Andrew Panay. Written by Steve Faber and Bob Fisher. Cinematography by Julio Macat. Original music by Rolfe Kent.
RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes.
WEB SITE: www.weddingcrashersmovie.com
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS