Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel

Wedding Planner, The (2000) *

Directed by Adam Shankman. Screenplay, Pamela Falk, Michael Ellis. Photography, Julio Macat. Music, Mervyn Warren. Cast: Jennifer Lopez (Mary Fiore), Matthew McConaughey (Steve Edison) Bridgette Wilson-Sampras (Fran Donolly), Justin Chambers (Massimo), Judy Greer (Penny), Alex Rocco (Salvatore Fiore), Joanna Gleason (Mrs. Donolly), Charles Kimbrough (Mr. Donolly), et al . A Sony release. 101 minutes. PG-13

"Veni, vidi, vici" said Julius Caesar, "I came, I saw, I conquered." Re The Wedding Planner, I came, I saw, I was monumentally bored.after he first reel. In the latter, Mary (Lopez) is the powerhouse top handler in a chic firm of wedding consultants in San Francisco. The early sequences are amusing. She runs a wedding with the modern, technological efficiently of a three-star general. Self-assured and fully aware of her value to the firm, she is gunning for a partnership. The scenes are fast-moving and fast-talking, like a throwback to classic screwball comedies such as Twentieth Century, Bringing Up Baby or His Girl Friday. But her private life, while minutely organized, is empty. Then, while planning the highly profitable wedding of heiress Fran, in a forced development a street accident causes Meeting Cute with pediatrician Steve (McConaughey). In a mega-coincidence of the kind that give a bad name to movies, romance raises its head as soon after Steve turns out to be is the fiancÚ of client Fran.

An unlikely quid pro quo is reinforced by shovelfuls of artificiality in plot, cardboard characters, relationships, antagonisms, side-events ... Another thread has Mary's father Salvatore (Alex Rocco), surprise her with the arrival from Italy of Massimo (Justin Chambers) a childhood playmate. As absurdities escalate, Massimo wants to marry Mary. His role is useless, gratuitous and plain stupid. His Italian as well as his Italian-accented English are atrociously false, as are daddy Salvatore's.

Shots, scenes and sequences pile up in a gauche, unintegrated script. The movie is like a cut-up cadaver that they are trying to make whole with stitches. There is no forward movement, no impetus, no suspense, no guessing in all this flab. You can see everything coming from Day Two as the "developments" increase to Himalayan heights of dumbness. In the finale, the Lopez character and the pediatrician will be the new couple. Predictable. But it makes no sense that she blames herself for having been a control freak. She was simply doing her job. All this is nap-inducing with the force of five Tylenol-Plus.

There's an embarrassment of choices in attributing film guilt to the makers. A first-time director whose trade is choreography; a novice writer and her inexperienced collaborator; a regiment of producers, executive producers and co-producers; a plethora of companies ( the credits read: A Sony Pictures release of a Columbia Pictures and Interme presentation of a Tapestry Films/Dee Gee Entertainment/IMF production in association with Prufrock Pictures.) Too many cooks?

The screening of this feature was preceded by three unpromising previews. The Wedding Planner confirmed that after the mostly awful summer 2000 movies, and after their subsequent replacement by some good films year-end items (the usual pre-Oscar race), bad movies are back to reinforce the dismal norms of Hollywood.

By coincidence, a couple of hours after seeing The Wedding Planner, I caught on cable Gregory Nava's 1997 biopic "Selena," with Jennifer Lopez in the title role. It is about the Tejano singer who was murdered in 1995, at age 23, just as she was becoming a household name. It is just a good movie --but it feels even better when compared to The Wedding Planner.

A trivial note: Fran is played by the former Bridgette Wilson who married tennis player Sampras and now goes under the hyphenated name Wildon-Sampras.

A non-trivial note: for her role Lopez was paid 9 million dollars.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel