Mockumentaries have become the scourge of low-budget cinema; given a camera and actors who can talk, filmmakers with amusing concepts seem to think they're the next Christopher Guest. The only two really necessary ingredients, of course, are rare: Actors gifted at improvisation and a director who knows when to move scenes along. Happily, the British import "Confetti" has both.
Confetti, a bridal magazine, is holding a contest for the year's most original wedding. Aided by two expert planners, the three finalist couples struggle with logistics, family and their own foibles — no surprises here. But this sometimes cumbersome framework showcases supremely committed performances that manage to sell theme nuptials based on tennis, Hollywood musicals and naturist (apparently not the same thing as "nudist" but to most eyes they'll look the same) culture. As one of the planners gushes, "It's a three-ring circus of love!"
Theater veteran Debbie Isitt directs on the shoulders of Guest (there are clear "Best In Show" and "Waiting for Guffman" influences) but does so deftly. Scenes seem just long enough, and although the pathos can feel forced, she mostly succeeds in building empathy for a ragged bunch of folks with unusual dreams.
Fans of the original "Office" will be delighted to see Martin Freeman back in nice-guy mode as half of the musical couple. Comic Jimmy Carr is hilarious as the magazine's publisher: "I'm a bride's best friend," he announces brightly, then adds, resignedly, "I'm not gay."
Speaking of which, easily the most likable partners are the wedding planners (Vincent Franklin and Jason Watkins). Bravely dedicated to their high-strung, complicated charges, they are the heroes of the piece — and its paragon of the enduring, loving couple.
"Confetti" also makes terrible singing funny again, with the musical bride (Jessica Stevenson) admitting she is "physically dyslexic" and "slightly tone deaf." And the groom's best man, Snoopy (the scene-stealing Marc Wootton), is an awful rock frontman who warbles before the happy couple at a pub gig, "You made your bed / I hope you lie in it with the girl who stole our dreams away / She's just like Yoko Ono / Dead man walking / Can't you hear your old friend talking?"
Under the insanity and unsexy nudity, "Confetti" has a sweet center. Comic timing, themes of tolerance and commitment and the marriage of farce and empathy lift the film above the mockumentary pack.
MPAA rating: R for nudity and language
A Fox Searchlight Pictures release. Conceived, directed by Debbie Isitt. Producers Ian Flooks, Ian Benson. Director of photography Dewald Aukema. Editor Nicky Ager. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.
In selected theaters.