Comedy Movie

Mother of the Bride

Over the last few years, there has been a trend of opulent destination wedding romantic comedies. Two years ago, there was “Ticket to Paradise” starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts and “Shotgun Wedding” starring Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel. Most recently, “Anyone But You,” starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, got rave reviews and made bank at the box office. So it was about time a watered-down Netflix version of this new sub-genre emerged. Enter “Mother of the Bride” starring Brooke Shields, Miranda Cosgrove, and Benjamin Bratt. Like a magpie, it takes bits and pieces from better films and cobbles it together with some paper-thin characters into something that is a movie in definition only.

I am normally a fan of the films Brad Krevoy and Steve Stabler (working under the moniker Motion Picture Corporation of America) have made with Netflix. I’ve rewatched both “The Knight Before Christmas” and “A Castle for Christmas” (also starring Shields) more times than I care to share. I’ve even written positively about the Lindsay Lohan vehicles “Falling for Christmas” and “Irish Wish” on this very website. Director Mark Waters has a pretty strong track record in the genre, helming star-studded films like the original “Mean Girls,” “Freaky Friday,” and “Just Like Heaven.” Even his less-than-stellar films like “Head over Heels” and “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” are, I confess, guilty pleasures.

So what exactly went so wrong here? The hackneyed script from Robin Bernheim, best known for writing and producing the Netflix “The Princess Switch” trilogy, strands the film’s cast in shallow waters. 

Shields is game as Lana, a world-renowned geneticist nursing some decades-old romantic wounds. This vein of slightly neurotic, screwball comedy is something she’s honed since her “Suddenly Susan” sitcom days. Lana goes into a full-on tailspin when she discovers her daughter Emma (an incredibly bland Miranda Cosgrove) is marrying RJ (Sean Teale), who turns out to be the son of Will (Benjamin Bratt, sadly sapped of his trademark charm), the man who broke her heart in college. Rachael Harris basically plays herself as Lana’s perpetually horny cougar sister, who at one point describes a beefed-up Chad Michael Murray as a “Hemsworth hottie.” Michael McDonald and Wilson Cruz play the token happily married gay couple, whose entire raison d’être is to be sassy and supply the audience with exposition. 

Emma is a lifestyle influencer who has inked a six-figure deal with a mega-corp to which she has essentially sold her wedding as a product to promote their resort in Phuket, Thailand. While there is endless chatter about Instagram photo shoots and designer dress fittings, the film doesn’t explore the economics in play here. What could have been a sharp satire about the commodification of our lives, down to those days that are supposed to be the most sacred, becomes a limp lesson in work-life balance. This theme is so threadbare it makes “27 Dresses” seem downright didactic in comparison. The only cast member who seems to be on this satirical page is Tasneem Roc as a singularly unhinged brand manager named Camala, who mercifully supplies the film with its few paltry laughs.

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