The Wedding Planner (2001)
Directed by Adam Shankman
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Justin Chambers, Judy Greer, Kevin Pollak, Frances Bay.
2001 107 minutes
Rated: (for mild profanity and a scene of scatological humor).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, January 27, 2001.
For 107 minutes, "The Wedding Planner," a distressingly lifeless romantic comedy directed by Adam Shankman, stands as an embarrassment for every person that was involved in its creation. With the commitment of such talented movie stars as Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey, it is destined to stand as a negative footnote in both of their careers, as neither one even give us the pleasure of good performances. Lopez's strong point is most certainly not comedy, as she consistently resembles a deer caught in the headlights, while McConaughey simply looks bored. Together, they flounder and desperately overact in an attempt to bring life to the charmless screenplay, hideously written by Pamela Falk and Michael Ellis, and insipid direction by first-time director Shankman.
Mary Fiore (Jennifer Lopez) has been a dedicated and highly successful wedding planner for five years, effortlessly controlling everything involved in the festivities. In fact, so much of her time is taken up by her profession that romance has been absent from her personal life for two whole years. That all changes when she has a strained meet-cute with doctor Steve Edison (Matthew McConaughey), who saves her from a runaway garbage cart. Following a magical night which they spend watching an old movie in a San Francisco park, Mary is appalled to discover a couple days later that Steve is engaged to marry her latest client, Fran Donolly (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras). Forced to work with the couple as she plans their wedding, Mary cannot help but fall for Steve, who is likewise beginning to have doubts about Fran being "the one" for him.
The romantic comedy genre is one that you don't really expect to be unpredictable. In almost all cases, the two unlikely lovers end up together in the end. Because of this, it is vital that the film exhibit at least a modicum of sweetness and entertainment value, with the two characters invoking charisma together. Take the similar 1998 film, "The Wedding Singer," for example, which wasn't the least bit surprising in the story department, but flourished because of its bright writing and the standout performances by Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The makers of "The Wedding Singer" had their hearts in exactly the right place, and it ended up being one of the best comedies of that respective year. "The Wedding Planner" is almost a carbon copy of every romantic comedy ever made, but its humor never fails to fall flat, and the whole production seems to be stuck on autopilot.
It cannot be denied that Jennifer Lopez (2000's "The Cell") and Matthew McConaughey (2000's "U-571") are attractive performers, but they are walking stiffs in this film, and their characters offer up no rooting interest. The supporting cast are a little better, but they, too, often overact with the skill of an untrained tiger. Judy Greer (2000's "What Women Want") at least has some fun as Mary's friend and coworker, which is more than can be said for the two main stars. The only two actors who come away unscathed are Bridgette Wilson-Sampras (2000's "Beautiful") and Justin Chambers (1999's "Liberty Heights"), who bring dignity and intelligence to their roles of Steve and Mary's potential suitors. Wilson-Sampras is especially good, and the final scene between her and McConaughey is one of the few well-written passages in the entire picture. Tellingly, it is a quiet, dramatic sequence, leading one to hypothesize that the movie might have been more successful without all of the stupid slapstick, which is not helped by Mervyn Warren's cartoonish, nails-on-a-blackboard music score.
You would think that romantic comedies would be one of the simplest genres to write for. After all, they don't ask much in the way of creativity, and only require the assistance of a sturdy screenplay and a cute couple. When even those slight requirements are not met, as they fail to be in "The Wedding Planner," you know that the whole enterprise is in serious trouble. By the time Lopez and McConaughey reunite at the end to consummate their love for one another in the crucial final scene, I caught my mind wandering to "The Pledge," the far superior film I saw right before this one. That is as telling a final statement as anything in "The Wedding Planner."
©2001 by Dustin Putman