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Madcap Marital Mayhem: Romance Is a Wild & Crazy Thang

Ed Rampell: Diane plays the ensemble’s most interesting character, as it turns out that not only is she vision-less, but is also a blind photographer.

LOVE, WEDDINGS & OTHER DISASTERS Film Review

Director/co-writer/co-star Dennis Dugan’s Love, Weddings & Other Disasters is a mildly amusing romcom mainly distinguished by the presence of two superb thespians: Oscar winners Diane Keaton (she was awarded the Best Actress Academy Award for 1977’s Annie Hall and of course starred in many other Woody Allen classic comedies) and Jeremy Irons (1990’s Reversal of Fortune, for which he scored that coveted golden statuette for Best Actor). The proverbial curtain lifts on Disasters with an eye-grabbing, death defying opening reminiscent of James Bond films, as well as with a knowing wink to the movie’s title. However, the aptly named Disasters rapidly descends downhill from there, literally (if you watch this flick you’ll see what I mean, but I don’t want to commit that critical capital offense of plot spoiling).

LOVE, WEDDINGS & OTHER DISASTERS

Speaking of “offenses,” Dugan directed a number of Adam Sandler “comedies,” such as 1996’s Happy Gilmore, 1999’s Big Daddy, 2011’s Jack and Jill, 2010’s Grown Ups and its 2013 sequel (as if once wasn’t enough). Dugan’s Disasters has a similar comic sensibility, minus the Sandman. As the title indicates, this romantic comedy is about a series of individuals who, over the course of 90 minutes, seek to couple-up. There is also at least one decoupling (POSSIBLE PLOT SPOILER ALERT: unless you include as well the breakup of a rock band caused by one musician’s relationship with an Asian woman - which may be a very unfortunate Yoko Ono reference.)

There are too many couples to spill ink (or, as the case may be, pixels) on, but here’s a couple of them. Jimmy Barton (Andy Goldenberg) plays the younger brother of Robert Barton (Dennis Staroselsky), who is running for mayor (POSSIBLE PLOT SPOILER ALERT:) and who’s pending marriage reception provides this comedy’s grand finale. Jimmy is a contestant in a TV game/reality show, and this movie’s wickedly witty spoofing of that genre provides some of Disasters’ best comic touches, along with some political lampooning of Robert’s race for office and his spinmeister’s manipulations. Dennis Dugan himself drolly portrays the game show’s host Eddie Stone.

For the “Crash Couples” television program Jimmy is chained to stripper Svetlana/Olga (Melinda Hill plays the busty exotic dancer, but is a bit over the hill for the part, as she is actually around 20 years older than the age her character claims to be). Svetlana/ Olga’s links to the Russian mobsters who run the strip club she performs at injects additional wacky characters into this madcap mélange. (For a strip joint that advertises “Live Nude Dancers” the strippers there are strangely overdressed.)

Andrew Bachelor (aka “King Bach”) portrays a wisecracking tour guide aboard an amphibious bus/boat in Boston who falls for one of an elusive passenger with a glass slipper tattoo, providing this story with its on-the-nose Cinderella angle. For some reason, this shot on location movie fails to make use of Boston’s many historical landmarks.

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In any case, Disasters’ most interesting characters are, but of course, portrayed by Jeremy Irons and Diane Keaton (she gets top billing in the credits), who are always welcome screen presences. Irons portrays a persnickety caterer who clashes with novice wedding planner Maggie Grace (Lost, Californication). When friends ambush the fussy, perfectionist caterer by introducing him to a blind date, his high-and-mighty persona unrealistically immediately crumbles when it turns out that she is, literally, blind.

Diane plays the ensemble’s most interesting character, as it turns out that not only is she vision-less, but is also a blind photographer. This is an intriguing spin, which Dugan makes more or less believable, and in real life, Diane is indeed an accomplished photographer. Her evolving relationship with Irons – who, like Diane, is now in his seventies – is attention-getting as it shows that older adults are still capable of romance. Indeed, if memory serves correctly, they are the only couples in Disasters who actually have sex (that is, with one another).

Irons acquits himself well in this comedic role, especially as he’s primarily been known for appearing in dramatic parts since the 1970s, starring for example in 1981’s The French Lieutenant Woman (opposite the equally venerable Meryl Streep) and 1982’s Polish-themed Moonlighting, and more recently as an ominous character on HBO’s Watchmen series. Of course, the British thesp won his Oscar for portraying the real life, suspected wife-killer Claus von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune. I had the privilege of seeing Irons trod the boards at Beverly Hills’ Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts back in those prehistoric times when live drama was still possible, playing the lead character in the Bristol Old Vic Production of Eugene O’Neill’s heart-wrenching Long Day’s Journey Into Night in 2018, and he did not disappoint.

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Diane has similarly assayed dramatic roles, including in The Godfather trilogy, but she unlike Irons is best known for the comedies she has lit up the screen in. I familiarly call Diane Keaton by her first name because shortly before she starred in what may be her most famous role as the title character in Annie Hall, I had the joy of sharing much of a flight with her on the first leg of my initial trip to Tahiti. She was a wonderful, candid conversationalist, but as this was a private conversation, I’ll only reveal here one tidbit of what the superstar had to say. Like the character Diane might have been flying from New York to L.A. to depict at the time, Diane really did say, “Well, lah-dee-dah” – just like Annie Hall did on the silver screen.

The disasters in Dugan’s Disasters quickly wear out their welcome and become a tiresome leitmotif, and as previously mentioned, the director/co-writer joins the dramatis personae in a small part. All of the couples and strands come together during the ultimate wedding scene, when a song the guitarist had sworn he’d never play is, but of course, rather predictably belted out. (POSSIBLE PLOT SPOILER ALERT:) There is also the inevitable happy ending, when love conquers all.

Love, Weddings & Other Disasters rarely rises above a sitcom-ish sensibility, but for those sheltering in place during these rather mirthless times, it’s an enjoyable way to pass an hour and a half during our long march from here to eternity. And if for no other reason than giving us an opportunity to once again see Jeremy Irons and Diane Keaton onscreen, it is worth watching in theaters (assuming it’s safe to attend?) and On Demand starting Dec. 4.

Ed Rampell

Ed Rampell