Always a Bridesmaid

Skirt-chasing Vince Vaughn is Wedding Crashers' master of ceremonies.

Wedding Crashers
Wilson plays straight man to the seriously bent Vaughn.
Wilson plays straight man to the seriously bent Vaughn.
If Vince Vaughn puts any effort into what he's doing, it doesn't show, which is perhaps one of the benefits of always appearing to be hung over. The man probably has to check the bags under his eyes at the airport, and he's about as in shape as a toddler's fistful of Play-Doh. This is no doubt why audiences dig him; he is us, dude, and we am him. Onscreen, he looks like any other buddy who'd lend you a smoke, buy you a beer, or give you a call when he needs to get bailed out of jail. He's no more or less than a giant schlub of a man -- someone who got tall enough to look like he ought to be selling frozen peas in jolly green bags, but stopped maturing around the time he finally realized he wasn't gonna last through his eighth year of college. He's a role model for every guy who ever dreamed of living in his parents' basement till he was 35.

In Wedding Crashers, a movie about two guys who troll for tail during strangers' nuptials, which stretches its sketch-comedy premise to epic proportions (two hours, sweet Lord), Vaughn doesn't even give co-star Owen Wilson a chance to own a piece of the property. It's all his, even when Vaughn isn't onscreen; we're forced to bide our time till his return, because any scene featuring just Wilson and his would-be lover (Rachel McAdams) is slower than a turtle in a bear trap. Vaughn stakes his claim from the jump, in an opening scene featuring Dwight Yoakam and Rebecca De Mornay as a splintering couple feuding over frequent-flier miles. Vaughn and Wilson -- as Jeremy Klein and John Beckwith, respectively -- are there to mediate their dispute, but instead, Vaughn delivers a long-winded, mile-a-second monologue about how beautiful weddings inevitably lead to the husband's screwing mistresses in Denver motel rooms and the wife's wiping her Latin lover's sweat off her naked bod. He rambles and ambles for what feels like minutes, and the scene plays as though wholly improvised -- not even Vaughn seems to know what the hell he's talking about.

He does it again one scene later, informing the female assistant who's trying to fix him up that dating only leads to the uncomfortable end-of-the-evening "ass-out hug" and, if you're really lucky, a game of "just the tip" -- referring, of course, to how far a man should insert his penis into his date. The woman ought to be appalled, but she just stands there glassy-eyed, bemused and confused by what she's heard. But what else can she expect from a man who has set up an open bar behind his desk? The poor woman, like Wilson and everyone else in the film (even Christopher Walken, as the U.S. Treasury secretary), is just there to play straight man to a schmuck who is seriously bent.

Wedding Crashers, whose director, David Dobkin, has worked with both Wilson (Shanghai Knights) and Vaughn (Clay Pigeons) before, is that rarest of entities in these appalling appeal-to-everyone days of moviemaking, when studios rip the guts and nuts from their comedies to lure in that cheap teen coin. It flaunts its R rating -- Vaughn and Wilson punctuate their sentences with more fucks than a porn movie -- and recalls the heyday of National Lampoon's Animal House, Caddyshack, and Stripes, comedies made for grown-ups who still giggled like preteens. It's to be celebrated for its fearlessness, for being so wrong that it can't help but feel right to laugh at Vaughn when he says, after a night of particularly rough sex with his nutty wannabe lover, Gloria (Isla Fisher), "I felt like Jodie Foster in The Accused last night."

The movie has two problems, one of which is that it indulges in what's becoming an irritating trait in movies starring Vaughn and at least one of the Wilson brothers: the pointless cameo of an actor who, when he appears onscreen, isn't so much a surprise as he is a groaning distraction. (You'll know who it is long before he emerges from the shadow; this sentence alone probably gives it away. No, it's not Ben Stiller. Could have been, though.) Its other flaw, which is significantly more fatal, is that Wedding Crashers goes on far, far too long. (The thing has more false endings than all three Lord of the Rings movies combined.) It begins with too much of a bang -- an orgiastic montage, set to "Shout," in which the boys crash a handful of weddings and crash into bed with a handful of topless women -- and winds down with too much of a whimper. It's almost as though the movie becomes ashamed of its actions and feels the need to apologize for having too good a time; it all but flagellates itself by giving in to so much True Love, you'd be forgiven for feeling truly disappointed. Here's a tip: When Vaughn and Wilson are outed as impostors and forced to leave Walken's estate, grab your stuff and walk out. You'll think you just saw a comedy masterpiece.

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