Friday January 26, 2001
Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey have great chemistry in "The Wedding Planner," but their megawatt star power is short-circuited by the movie's lack of energy and crackling dialogue. Their charisma will likely be enough to satisfy many of their fans, and the picture is never less than pleasant--but it's not more than that often enough.
Writers Pamela Falk and Michael Ellis start out with a good idea. With lots of amusing details they introduce us to Lopez's Mary Fiore as the most imaginative, dedicated and resourceful wedding planner San Francisco has ever seen. There's no crisis, big or small, that Mary can't handle with dispatch and finesse. The peplums of her understated pastel power suits hide a kit for medical emergencies and more; Mary will not only write a toast for the groom's best man but will also wire him up so that she can feed him his lines.
Such career dedication leads the ambitious Mary to demand a partnership of her appreciative but savvy boss (Kathy Najimy), who agrees, provided Mary land an awesomely lucrative job with the nouveau riche Donnollys (Joanna Gleason, Charles Kimbrough), who want an expense-be-damned wedding for their daughter Fran (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras).
This is no real challenge for our Mary, but then she is nearly mown down by a runaway dumpster, rescued at the last moment by McConaughey's Dr. Steve Edison, a pediatrician.
Mary is such a workaholic she has made no time for romance, but she and Steve do have an understandable impact upon each other, an effect intensified when her dizzy assistant (Judy Greer) maneuvers him into going with them to see a vintage movie in Golden Gate Park. You can imagine the shock Mary experiences when a short while later she is introduced to Edison as Fran's bridegroom-to-be.
So far so good. But once the writers have crisply set up Mary's predicament, they and director Adam Shankman start running out of steam.
The premise of the film, two people who have fallen in love at first sight but who nobly don't want to hurt others, has fueled many a Hollywood movie of the '30s and '40s. Alas, if only "The Wedding Planner" had proceeded with the economy, nonchalance and sophisticated wit and invention of its vintage predecessors.
Instead, it becomes increasingly contrived and drawn out. That's a shame because Lopez and McConaughey not only are accomplished actors, but also have the dazzle of the stars of Hollywood's golden era; indeed, the striking contrast of McConaughey's fair handsomeness and Lopez's dark beauty recalls the teaming of Dolores Del Rio and Joel McCrea in King Vidor's "Bird of Paradise."
Wilson-Sampras' Fran has the look of the archetypal blond sorority girl or debutante, but the actress is able to make Fran thoroughly likable and not just an arch caricature. Plot developments demand some acting by Wilson-Sampras that can only be described as heroic, and she comes through admirably in credibility-defying circumstances.
Sequences involving Alex Rocco as Mary's widowed father and Justin Chambers as the love-struck Italian immigrant her father intends for her to marry are too contrived to be at all convincing. "The Wedding Planner" could have used more a little more planning.
The Wedding Planner, 2001. PG-13, for language and some sexual humor. A Columbia Pictures and Intermedia Films presentation of a Tapestry Films/Dee Gee Entertainment/IMF production in association with Prufrock Pictures. Director Adam Shankman. Producers Peter Abrams, Robert L. Levy, Gigi Pritzker, Deborah Del Prete, Jennifer Gibgot. Screenplay by Pamela Falk & Michael Ellis. Cinematographer Julio Macat. Editor Lisa Zeno Churgin. Music Marvyn Warren. Costumes Pamela Withers. Production designer Bob Ziembicki. Art director Gregory Bolton. Set decorator Barbara Munch. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. Jennifer Lopez as Mary Fiore. Matthew McConaughey as Steve Edison. Bridgette Wilson-Sampras as Fran Donnolly. Justin Chambers as Massimo.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times