The 4-day Vacation from Sanity: You Again

Posted on 25 September 2010 by ChloeG

Ah, the time-honored tradition of the wedding disaster movie. As a rule, they are so easy to dream up but so very, very hard to get right. It starts with the slight. It accelerates through the misunderstanding. It reaches fever-pitch with a barrage of pranks, and in the end everyone is married or happily attached, and we have a delightful dance scene. If that’s a spoiler for you, you need to get out more.

If you’ve seen the previews, you’ve pretty much got the picture for this one. Marni, (Kristen Bell, my dream heroine from Veronica Mars, otherwise mostly just perky, cute, and blonde) was abused in high school. The popular girl, J.J. (Odette Yustman), picked on her with an abnormally vigorous lack of mercy, and poor Marni Olivia Olsen (Moo.) could only but run away to the big city and become enormously successful. Now she’s returning home for her prince charming of a big brother’s wedding, and, surprise, he’s marrying none other than J.J. – now going by Joanna. To make the romantic comedy coincidence complete, Joanna’s only living family, Aunt Ramona (Sigourney Weaver) has unpleasant history with Marni’s mother Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis) that has something to do with one pushing the other into a swimming pool in high school, and they haven’t spoken since.

The plot elements for a film like this don’t claim to be particularly unique. It’s all about execution from here. Joanna is a perfectly functional super-syrupy bride slash queen bee bully, but it’s the rest of the headline cast that should stand out. Ramona and Gail have some unspecified high school conflict in which neither one of them seems particularly innocent, and they play it to the hilt. Marni slowly morphs back into her insecure high school self and goes on the expected revenge rampage. (Prince charming is charming, in case you were worried.)

For all of the cliché predictability, so far, nothing has actually gone wrong. This is how the movie is billed, and it delivers, conceptually. The problem with the whole event is believability. I’m not looking for well-rationed, level-headed characters. That’s not what this genre is about. The laws of cause and effect, though, are not so much bent or even broken as they are left on the plane from L.A. Marni leaves her professional world (she’s been newly-promoted to VP of public relations – you know, dealing with unpleasant people and making the truth a bit prettier) and over the course of a 4-day weekend, loses her mind. Warm, family-centric Gail and uber-successful, worldly Ramona do the same in just over 3 days. Joanna is the only one with an excuse, because we’re never really certain how much dancing she’s doing to put on that snuggly charm. She might actually be nuts under all that sugar and spice.

Prince charming is, through it all, clueless. A practicing lawyer, he is smilingly oblivious to the volcano his wedding sits on – is this really what we think of prince charming these days? – and is shocked that either his fiancée or his sister could misbehave so badly. Sigh. At least he’s attractive.

I’m actually a pretty sincere Kristen Bell fan, but all I can say for her as Marni is that she does a cute crazy. I can’t say so much for the two supreme matrons of film.

The cast is perpetually uncomfortable and uncouth, for such generally well-rounded character resumes, but when you cast Betty White as Grandma, I guess that’s what you’re shooting for. The movie is pretty and the plot is funny. I’m not complaining. Heck, we even get a cameo from The Rock and a nice big Disney bow at the end. I just wish we could wheedle a little bit more groundedness into our off-the-wall comedies, in general, rather than having a wild idea for some hilarious situation and having the script genie make it so.

The metrics:

  • Would I see this movie opening weekend? Not a chance. I love watching Kristen Bell do good work, but this isn’t it.
  • Would I pay to rent this movie? Honestly, probably not. There are other wedding catastrophe movies that are more fun, and each of the leading ladies has a portfolio from which I would rather choose some other item.
  • Would I intentionally see something else opening weekend? Not really. It’s not great, but I didn’t have that strong a dislike for it.

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