Wedding Crashers by Beatriz Oria

Romantic Animals

Wedding Crashers (David Dobkin, 2005).

 Beatriz Oria

Wedding Crashers tells the story of John (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy (Vince Vaughn), a couple of friends in their mid-thirties whose favourite occupation is to crash weddings in order to meet girls, as they believe women are more “receptive” in this kind of events. At one point John starts to wonder whether they are not getting a little pathetic, anchored as they are in this immature lifestyle. Jeremy convinces him of the contrary and talks him into crashing the biggest wedding of the year: US Treasury Secretary’s (Christopher Walken) daughter is getting married. As was to be expected, both friends fall for the bridesmaids, who also happen to be the senator’s daughters, and after a series of romantic vicissitudes (of a less conventional type in Jeremy’s case), the film has a happy ending.

In spite of its hackneyed plot, Wedding Crashers presents an interesting combination of generic conventions. The film sets out in (soft) animal comedy mode, mainly concerned with the satisfaction of its characters’ childish impulses and bodily functions, but it takes a sentimental turn in the second half, when Jeremy and John decide to leave behind their crazy bachelor life-style in order to settle down with the arrival of “true love”. This development from mild gross-out comedy to romantic comedy mirrors the wider change that the former has experienced in the last decades: born in the late 70s and early 80s, with films like Animal House (1978), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and Porky’s (1982), gross-out comedy seemed to have disappeared for some years, but it was revived again in the 90s with the success of American Pie (1999). The late 90s and early 2000s witnessed the “maturation” of the genre, which has run parallel to the coming of age of the teenagers which constituted the audience of these films in the 80s. As films like There’s Something about Mary (1998), Meet the Parents (2000), Shallow Hal (2001), Meet the Fockers (2004) or Wedding Crashers (2005) itself show, the genre has evolved towards the inclusion of conventions traditionally associated with romantic comedy, a genre which seemed initially incompatible with the gross humour of these films. This turn towards romantic comedy meant the adoption of a more traditional ideology regarding the heterosexual union: wild parties and the characters’ obsession with sex and fun are replaced with weddings and the preoccupation with finding the right partner and having a family.

Of course, the presence of romantic comedy in these films does not mean an innocent return to the romantic ideals of the old days when love was forever and characters sought not just a mate but their match. Wedding Crashers, for instance, shows a great degree of self-consciousness in its deployment of romantic comedy’s conventions, something which is especially evident in the final scene, in which John publicly declares his love for Claire (Rachel McAdams), who is engaged to Zack (Bradley Cooper). We have seen this scene a thousand times in other romantic movies and, of course, it is no surprise when the heroine chooses the hero instead of her fiancé, who is clearly characterized as the wrong partner. However, the film is very aware of the conventionality of this situation, something which is made obvious by John’s unexpected proposition: being in a church in the middle of a wedding celebration, he does not propose to her: all he asks her is not to marry the other guy, and instead of eternal love, he offers to “take a walk”. This ending betrays the film’s knowledge of the artificiality of romantic comedy’s conventions and the impossibility of reprising them in an age in which love has an expiry date and the institution of marriage is clearly devalued.

Interestingly, apart from gross-out and romantic comedy, Wedding Crashers also draws on the buddy film, a genre not frequently mixed with romance. The interaction between the two charismatic protagonists creates the funniest moments in the film and much of its success can be attributed to their performances, which basically rely on Wilson’s and Vaughn’s increasingly recognizable screen personas as “funny men”. The buddy movie conventions are mainly displayed in the first half of the film and are less present in the second, when romantic comedy takes over. At the end, Wedding Crashers mixes both genres without privileging one over the other: even though Jeremy’s relationship with Gloria (Isla Fisher) threatens the bond between the two friends at first, this conflict is suddenly resolved at the end, and the ending makes heterosexual love compatible with male friendship, thus contributing to the greater visibility of friendship relationships in contemporary romantic comedy.

Apart from this, Wedding Crashers is an enjoyable comedy, well-written and well-performed. Its remarkable success (it grossed over $209 million in the US with a budget of $40 million) attests to the validity of the cultural discourses it contains, which does not mean that the film has any pretensions to originality, as it follows one the most conventional of Hollywood formulas: it sets out with a “funny situation” which gives way to a series of gags whose comic effect relies mainly on the actors’ competence. This is culminated by a Hollywood-like sentimental turn that, although expected, looks rather contrived: is it really believable that Claire leaves the man she has loved for three years for an almost complete stranger? Why is she with him in the first place if he is as despicable as the film wants us to believe? Wedding Crashers, as most mainstream romantic comedies, is not interested in answering these questions, but neither are we, as we watch the two buddies ride into the sunset… this time in female company.

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