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The Wedding Planner

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Wedding Planner

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey
Director: Adam Shankman
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: January 2001
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Bridgette Wilson, Judy Greer, Kevin Pollak, Alex Rocco, Joanna Gleason

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Taking on the theme of "always a wedding planner but never a bride," Adam Shankman's throwback to sentimental romances like Taylor Hackford's 1982 adventure "An Officer and a Gentleman" updated with elements from Mike Newell's "Four Weddings and a Funeral" has a few things going for it to make its relative charms at least somewhat tolerable to viewers. The principal couple played by Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez are pure box office, with a palpable chemistry and the ability to portray professional people from different ethnic roots who must overcome hardships before securing a happy life together. Julio Macat's lensing shows us a gorgeous San Francisco, avoiding the stereotypical hills and trolleys in favor of a more lived-in town, lived-in, at any rate, by the well-to-do. But blatant predictability, a tendency of supporting players to overact, and a craving of Mervyn Warren's music to pump up every emotion dooms what could have been as buoyant as a just-baked wedding cake into just another elaborately nut- filled but unsatisfying confection.

From the very opening, Shankman shows us the sort of work that is done by the titled wedding planner, an assured hostess who, like a film director for the rich, smoothly commands her subordinates to assure that each ceremony runs calmly and gracefully. Mary Fiore (Jennifer Lopez) darts about the lavish expanse of one of San Francisco's most exclusive parlors, even arranging to change the seat of a guest whose elevated mane gets in the way of the video camera in much the way movie patrons in non-stadium theaters block the view of those seated behind them. Aspiring to a partnership in a firm run by the goofy Gery (Kathy Najimy), she is to be rewarded if she can get the account of wealthy but equally goofy high-tech executive Mr. Donolly (Charles Kinbrough) and his ditzy, oenephile wife (Joanna Gleason). When Mary and a cute pediatrician meet cute after Dr. Steve Edison (Matthew McConaughey) saves her from an attack by a wandering dumpster, Mary enjoys a moment that can be described only as love at first sight. But since Pamela Falk and Michael Ellis's screenplay abide by the leading convention of romantic comedies--keep the principals apart until the very end--we have no trouble believing that Steve and Mary are destined to remain just friends as the physician is engaged to the headstrong and horsey Fran Donolly (Bridget Wilson-Sampras).

We need not wonder why Jennifer Lopez enjoys the attention of an extensive fan club. Emulating Julia Roberts in the beauty arena, Ms. Lopez's career often features her mellifluous voice. This time around, we learn that she is an accomplished ballroom dancer. At one point she turns in an impressive gambol at the tango, a performance for which McConaughey allegedly needed to rehearse for several weeks before being released on the ballroom floor for the cameras. But even here, our enjoyment of the scene is impeded by the over-the-top demeanor of Fred Willard as dance instructor Basil St. Mosely.

While leaving the theater, an eavesdropper could hear at least two members of the audience joking that Matthew McConaughey is the prettiest actor in the movie. The versatile, thirty-two year old performer has strutted his stuff in roles as varied as that of Richard Linklater's "Dazed and Confused" and Joel Schumacher's adaptation of John Grisham's "A Time to Kill." He exudes genuine charm as opposed to the mock enticements of Judy Greer as Penny, an assistant to the wedding planner, and the irritating presence of Calvin Klein model Justin Chambers in the role of a naive immigrant, Massimo, who is pushed by Mary Fiore's annoying dad Salvatore (Alex Rocco) to propose to her. (Massimo's only knowledge of Mary was in a brief stint as childhood friends, at which time Massimo recalls "she was ugly and had no breasts"). "The Wedding Planner" is as excessive as the haute bourgeois members of the horsey set and the equally irritating people into whose lives they intrude.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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