Loved Her, Hated Him
"If there’s anyone who knows any reason why this movie shouldn’t be made, speak now or forever hold your peace." Too bad that issue wasn’t raised before The Wedding Planner went into production. But, hey, I’m sure filmmakers thought everything would be okay. After all, they persuaded the sensational Jennifer Lopez, fresh from her success in The Cell, to accept a starring role. And, romantic comedies about weddings usually do well at the box office. Remember My Best Friend’s Wedding and Runaway Bride? Unfortunately, even though Lopez is almost as watchable as Julia Roberts, Matthew McConaughey can’t match Hugh Grant or Richard Gere as a leading man. To make matters worse, on-screen chemistry between the film’s two stars is sadly lacking.
Still, things get off to a very good start. Lopez exudes confidence as A-list San Francisco wedding planner Mary Fiore. Looking and acting oh-so sophisticated in her chic business suit, our heroine knows just what to do at a posh wedding when little details need attention --- such as the FOB (father of the bride) starting to fall apart or the bride having second thoughts. Finding the bride’s father crying on a staircase, Mary uses the "first aid" arsenal she hides around her waist to spruce him up, then scoots him on his way. Consoling the unsure bride, Mary says, "You are exquisite. You are timeless. No wonder the groom told me ‘I can’t believe she picked me.’ Your marriage will last forever."
And so, this wedding, like the others she has coordinated, turns out to be a big success. While watching Mary supervise the ceremony from a balcony, one young girl whispers to her friend, "There’s the wedding planner. She must lead a very romantic life."
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Mary invests all her energy in her career, hoping to become a full partner in the business she loves. Then, by accident, she meets the man of her dreams, pediatrician Steve Edison (McConaughey), and falls hard for him. "You smell like sweet plums and grilled cheese sandwiches," she moans as he rescues her after a dislodged dumpster almost runs her down on a busy San Francisco street. But there’s a big disappointment in store for Mary. Why? Because Steve turns out to be the groom of her next wedding assignment.
From here on out, The Wedding Planner goes downhill faster than that runaway dumpster. Although Lopez maintains her charisma throughout the film, McConaughey seems as out of place as Will Rogers playing Rhett Butler. He’s painfully awkward in two dance sequences with Lopez, even though his character claims he’s had many ballroom dancing lessons. He forces his smiles, looks goofy when trying to appear romantic, and projects insincerity in a serious confrontation scene with the woman he’s supposed to marry (Bridgett Wilson-Sampras). McConaughey should stick to action films like U-571 and leave the romantic comedy roles to others. (I can’t help thinking how much better this movie would be with someone like David Duchovny as Lopez’s co-star.)
Other casting errors produce similar problems here. Justin Chambers (Liberty Heights) shamelessly chews the scenery as a persistent suitor from Sicily --- a part that should have been given to an older actor. Judy Greer (What Planet Are You From?) hams it up as a scatter-brained wedding planner assistant --- a role requiring someone with impeccable comic timing (Joan Cusack perhaps?) to make it work. Trying his best to come across as an overprotective father, veteran actor Alex Rocco doesn’t pull it off for me. I couldn’t forget he’s the guy who was executed by getting shot in the eye in The Godfather.
One of today’s top movie choreographers, Adam Shankman, makes his feature-length directorial debut with The Wedding Planner. His dance numbers added sparkle to such films as She’s All That and Blast from the Past. It’s a mystery to me why he goofed up with two big dance scenes in his own film --- other than because of McConaughey’s clumsiness, of course. One routine, a forced tango, features Lopez and McConaughey conducting a ridiculous argument during the entire number. The only saving grace is Lopez in her sexy red dress. In the other case, Shankman shows couples dancing in the park in front of a movie musical. But he chose the forgettable Two Tickets to Broadway for the background film. As I watched Lopez and McConaughey waltz to the singing of Janet Leigh and Tony Martin, oh how I longed for a glimpse of truly great musical stars like Gene Kelly and Judy Garland!
(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated "PG-l3" for language and some sexual humor.)