Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel


Directed by Charles Shyer. Produced by Nancy Meyers. Written by Meyers and Shyer. Photography, William Fraker. Production design, Linda DeScenna. Editing, Stephen A. Rotter. Music, Alan Silvestri. Cast: Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Martin Short, Kimberly Williams, et al. A Touchstone (Disney) Picture. 107 minutes. Rated PG.

"Father of the Bride II" follows the 1991 "Father of the Bride," itself a remake of the 1950 movie by the same title. The original was a nice, high-bourgeoisie, mainstream film. The father was Spencer Tracy -- who could do no wrong in his roles. The daughter was Elizabeth Taylor. That film was followed by "Father's Little Dividend" (1951), also with Tracy and Taylor. It is that last movie that has been now remade as "Father of the Bride II."

I have not seen the 1991 picture and my memory of "Father's Little Dividend" is hazy, so no comparisons will be made. But I have seen "Father of the Bride II" and I can tell you that if you want to see Steve Martin in fine fettle in a good picture, find something else to watch. There's ample choice, including four fine films that for mysterious reasons averaged poor-to-mediocre reviews : "Pennies from Heaven," "Three Amigos," "My Blue Heaven" and "Housesitter."

The script of "FOTB II" is based on that of "Father's Little Dividend," but this time there are two pregnancies. George Banks (Martin) is a wealthy man approaching 50 contented with his life, kids, wife and house. He says so at the start of the movie, addressing the audience. There is more of this later too. The uncreative way the monologue is handled shows that it is used as a crutch.

When his married daughter announces that she is pregnant, George goes into a blue funk at the idea of aging and becoming a grandfather. This too is handled lamely, opting for sentiment instead of having Steve Martin do a manic-depressive turn. George tries rejuvenating his appearance by dyeing his white hair and other steps. In a moment of abandon he makes love to his wife Nina (Keaton) on the kitchen floor.

Let's cut to the chase. Some time later the senior couple find out that Nina is pregnant, to her delight and to his shock. But he comes around and everything goes swimmingly as mother and daughter both produce babies next door to each other in the same hospital and at the exact same time.

If you can swallow that much coincidence you should see the infinitely funnier (but naughty) "Micki + Maude," a 1984 farce by Blake Edwards in which bigamist TV reporter Dudley Moore has two wives giving birth at the same time and place. Skip, however the 1995 pregnancy movie "Nine Months" (with Hugh Grant), which is pretty poor, except for Robin Wiliams's turn.

"Father of the Bride II" is phony throughout and disconnected from real life, or at least the life of the huge majority of viewers. The Banks live in a mansion that would make Cary Grant and Myrna Loy (in "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" (1948) green with envy. George's profession and source of income are a mystery. The only time we see him in his work-place is when he crosses a large office while getting from his secretary a list of famous people who are his seniors.

"FOTB II" is a Rich People's film. When for reasons I will not go into, George has sold his house then wants to buy it back from Mr. Habib (Eugene Levy) the entrepreneur, he thinks nothing of returning Habib's check plus a bonus of $100,000. With the help of another entrepreneur, the family friend played by Martin Short, George then gets going on building an addition, a "Baby Suite" that could easily house a small family. Then comes a luxurious two-babies-shower, also orchestrated by Martin Short. Wanna bet that George and Nina do not clip grocery coupons?

Very, very little is funny about this film, in spite of Martin's unquestioned abilities. Instead we get a lot of delighted squealing (as when the daughter makes her announcement) and dumb, silly scenes (as in the dog sequence). We get oceans of glop and an overall atmosphere that is like an updated or transplanted Eisenhower-era mentality, when much of America was optimistic and thriving.

The picture also wallows in corny sentiment, like a flashback of George teaching basketball to his then-little girl to the sounds of awful swelling music. (Normally composer Alan Silvestri does a lot better than in this picture).

What's even worse is that the film is so lethargic that a sleeping-pills incident stands as a symbol of the whole. At the same time the movie manages to offend people right and left : Arabs (the grasping, cold Mr. Habib), hospital staff (they make an initial mistake) and doctors (there is mistrust of obstetrician Dr. Eisenberg who is young and a woman). Canines too.

More irritating yet is the role of Martin Short as Frank Eggelhoffer. He is an unexplained friend (unless perhaps you know "FOTB I") who is now an interior decorator, now a contractor, now a caterer. Introduced as a flaming gay, in gestures and speech he minces, flounces, overdoes everything so much that he is an insult to both gays and straights. With vague European origins, he speaks with an accent that's neither German or anything else. It starts out highly exaggerated then ebbs, flows and changes as the movie unreels. His nom-de-film is taken, I bet, from the screwball classic "Nothing Sacred" (1937) where the great supporting actor Sig Ruman played Dr. Eggelhoffer.

The only four things I liked in "FOTB II" were Jane Adams in her small part as the charming and most professional Dr.Eisenberg; the two Dobermans; and George's beautiful two-seater convertible. Neither the end credits nor the body of the movie identify the car. For once, product placement would have been welcome.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel