TICKET TO PARADISE (2022)

October 21, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. I’ll begin things with a personal note, followed by a more objective and professional review. From the personal side: Writer-director Ol Parker (MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN, 2018) has delivered the textbook example of the type of movie that, while I understand why they get made, I find the hollowness and predictability to be anything but entertaining. On a more objective note, George Clooney and Julia Roberts are huge movie stars and will almost certainly lead the way to box office success.

Oscar winner Clooney plays David, a highly successful Chicago-based architect. Oscar winner Roberts plays Georgia, a highly successful Los Angeles-based art dealer. David and Georgia have been divorced for twenty years, and have bickered and fought a war of words and ideology ever since. They are forced to reunite and put on a happy face for the law school graduation of their daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever from “Justified” and BOOKSMART, 2019). The (un)wise cracks and cringe-inducing one-liners start immediately and continue as David and Georgia drop off Lily and her BFF Wren (Billie Lourd, also BOOKSMART) for their post-graduation vacation to Bali (although it’s filmed in Australia).

A googly-eyed, love-at-first-sight meet cute finds Lily falling hard and fast for local dreamboat and seaweed farmer Gede (introducing Maxime Bouttier). In the blink of an eye, David and Georgia are on a plane to Bali. Only this time they share the same mission … sabotage the wedding to prevent their daughter from making a mistake. Their “Trojan Horse” strategy and insistence on being in ‘lockstep’ are meant to be humorous, but mostly we wonder why these two can’t have an adult conversation with their adult daughter. Adding complications (though not really) to the mix is Georgia’s much younger boyfriend Paul (Armie Hammer lookalike Lucas Bravo, MRS HARRIS GOES TO PARIS, 2022). He’s a handsome French pilot who is so goofy, we can’t possibly take him seriously or think he could give Georgia pause on where the relationships in this movie are obviously headed.

This is the fifth film collaboration between mega-stars Clooney and Roberts, and after all these years, we know exactly what to expect from each of them. Clooney exaggerates his facial contortions and plays his part right down the line, while Roberts gets in a cackle or two while often wearing the most unflattering onesies you’ll ever see. If ‘paint by numbers’ is considered art, then romantic-comedy by rote would be as well. We know where this is headed within the first five minutes and only those who enjoy knowing every bump in the road ahead of the trip will find it satisfying. It’s a shame that the talented Dever, Lourd, and Bouttier couldn’t have had more to do here, but it seems superstars still rule the roost.

Opening in theaters on October 21, 2022

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I WANT YOU BACK (2022)

February 11, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. It all happens in the first three minutes. Peter gets dumped by Anne, and Emma gets dumped by Noah. We haven’t even had a chance to form any opinions of these two long-term relationships, and just like that … they are both kaput. Director Jason Orley and screenwriters (LOVE, SIMON collaborators) Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger toss us a curveball by having the dumpees form an alliance to help the other win back their dumpers. It’s an unconventional approach in this genre and it works due to some sharp writing, and the extraordinary comic timing of the two leads.

Nice guy Peter (Charlie Day, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) loves kids, loves the elderly, and loves Anne (Gina Rodriguez, ANNIHILATION, 2018). She abruptly dumps him because he’s a bit boring and she wants a “bigger life” … her dream is to be a Broadway star. Peter is crushed when she dumps him. Emma (Jenny Slate, OBVIOUS CHILD, 2014) works as a receptionist at an orthodontist office, and Noah (Scott Eastwood, THE OUTPOST, 2019) appreciates her humor, but is turned off by her lack of career ambition. Mind you, he’s a fitness trainer. Emma is crushed when she dumps him.

Peter and Emma have a sobbing meet-cute in the stairwell of the office building where they both work, and soon, drunk karaoke and lots of alcohol lead to quite an intricate scheme. Emma will seduce Anne’s new boyfriend Logan (Manny Jacinto), while Peter will befriend Noah and talk him out of love with new girlfriend Ginny (Clark Backo). The expected results find the appropriate exes crawling back into familiar arms. It’s a plan seemingly doomed to failure, but certain to provide many opportunities for laughter.

The scenes featuring Charlie Day and Jenny Slate are easily the film’s best. These are two talented and funny actors who play off each other beautifully. Of course, we presume to know where all of this is headed, and it may involve a threesome and a balcony jump into a hot tub … or it may not. The concept of sabotaging someone else’s happiness in hopes they will return to you is a bit psychotic to say the least. But it’s all handled with kid gloves and plays off the old adage, “misery loves company.” A bit of truth and relatability occurs as both Emma and Peter dread the idea of starting over in love – a quite common dread. The film kicks off with Jimmy Durante singing “The Glory of Love”, and though you’ll likely laugh a few times, you’ll likely notice the lack of glory in the behavior of Emma and Peter.

Exclusively on Amazon Prime Video February 11, 2022

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THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD (2022)

February 4, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. It’s often fun when an innovative filmmaker turns a stodgy genre upside down and offers us a new take. And who better to flip over the frequently stale mode of romantic-comedies than Norwegian auteur Joachim Trier? Co-written with his frequent collaborator Eskil Vogt, the film could also be described as a dramady or a thirty-ish coming-of-age tale. Regardless of the label, it’s entertaining and thought-provoking, as well as being a bit dark in parts (some of these also being quite funny). This is being called the final film in Trier’s “Oslo Trilogy”, three loosely connected films including REPRISE (2006) and OSLO, AUGUST 31 (2011).

Each of the films represents quite a shift in tone, and this latest revolves around Julie, played exceptionally well by Renate Reinsve. Trier structures the film as 12 chapters plus a prologue and epilogue. The prologue is brilliant and allows us to quickly grasp what we need to know about Julie. She changes her life goals multiple times – from doctor to psychologist to photographer, and later while working in a bookstore, she decides to be a writer. Thankfully we are spared the details in her essay on oral sex in the #MeToo era. Julie is impulsive to a fault. She has confidence but can’t commit to a direction – she’s confident in her uncertainty.

As she approaches 30, Julie is struggling to find her way. She’s not so much lost as struggling to deal with her jumbled thoughts. Can you lose your identity if you haven’t yet formed one? That seems to be the crux of Julie’s inner-struggles, even as she finds a seemingly good fit for a partner. Aksel (a terrific Anders Danielsen Lie) is a successful graphic artist, and he seems to understand Julie. Their relationship builds over time, even as their individual visions and goals diverge. The best life partner still comes with challenges when you still aren’t sure who you are as a person.

Julie feels herself slipping away, and that’s when her impulsive nature reappears. During a special event for Aksel, she walks out and spontaneously crashes a local wedding reception. This leads to a meet cute and flirty time with Eivind (Herbert Nordrum). Both he and she are in steady relationships, but only Bill Clinton could determine if the time Julie and Eivind spend together is cheating or not. Ms. Reinsve perfectly captures the spirit of Julie. Although she’s often a bit flustered, when she does smile, she radiates like a young Shelley Fabares.

Much has been made of Ms. Reinsve’s performance and she certainly deserves the accolades. However, we shouldn’t overlook the outstanding work of Anders Danielsen Lie in a difficult role. Filmmaker Joachim Trier’s previous work also includes THELMA (2017) and LOUDER THAN BOMBS (2015), and his creativity is most welcome. Two sequences stand out in his latest. In one, the world shifts into ‘freeze frame’ mode as Julie runs through the streets of Oslo to find her new love, and in the second, we follow her in the midst of a drug hallucination after experimenting with mushrooms. In the story, Trier focuses on the dynamics between partners and how the stages of life can complicate things. It’s charming and funny, but also quite serious, as he certainly doesn’t buy into the ideal that movies must have happy endings. In regard to the title, rather than describe Julie, it’s more likely meant to explain how many people think of themselves as they make decisions and mistakes – it’s really a show of humanity. And quite a good one.

Opening in limited theaters on February 4, 2022

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FALLING FOR FIGARO (2021)

September 30, 2021

Greetings again from the darkness. There aren’t many Opera singer-Romantic Comedies, so that alone made this one worth checking out. Writer-director Ben Lewin (THE SESSIONS, 2012) co-wrote the script with Allen Palmer (his first feature film) and cast the film perfectly, while also gifting us an inordinate amount of beautiful singing voices, as well as a uniquely picturesque setting in the Scottish Highlands.

Danielle Macdonald (PATTI CAKE$, 2017) stars as Millie, an American who has been living in London, and establishing herself as a highly successful fund manager. After an evening at the opera with her boyfriend (and co-worker) Charlie (Shazad Latif, “Penny Dreadful”), Millie makes a life-altering decision. Rather than accept a big promotion at work, she’s going to sacrifice her career and follow her dream of becoming an opera singer. Of course, as with most rom-coms, none of this really makes much sense. Rather than compare this to reality, it’s best to enjoy the fun parts (and there are plenty) and disregard the rest.

Those fun parts begin once Millie leaves London and lands in the Scottish Highlands. Her first comical interaction is with the proprietor of The Filthy Pig played by Gary Lewis (GANGS OF NEW YORK, 2002). This only pub in the village also serves as its only restaurant and motel. More zaniness ensues as Millie auditions for Megan Geoffrey-Bishop (a terrific Joanna Lumley, “Absolutely Fabulous”), a “retired” singing teacher who once made her own mark on the stage. Her only current pupil is Max (Hugh Skinner, LES MISERABLES, 2002), a local who has been training for years. Max and Millie have the same goal – qualify for the ‘Singer of Renowned’ competition. So we immediately know where this is headed … and sure enough, it does.

While much of the story focuses on the ‘will they or won’t they’ connection between Millie and Max, it’s Ms. Lumley who steals every scene she’s in. Her theory that opera singers must suffer is part of her curriculum for both of her students. At first we aren’t sure whether she’s just taking Millie’s money because she needs it, but that answer comes soon enough. The actual competition is packed with amazing singing voices, and the three-way love story follows many of the rom-com clichés – though we don’t seem to care because Millie and Max are so torn between their dream and each other, and Ms. Lumley just keeps cracking wise.

Of course we know that opera singers train most of their lives for competitions and stage roles, so it’s absurd to think that a fund manager can take a year off work and reach this level. But again, this isn’t about reality. No, this is about Millie singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” like you’ve never heard it before. It’s about “fish and chips without the vinegar”. It’s about not wanting to rent a room because the floor would need to be mopped. It’s about opening your heart and chasing a passion – following a dream. And we can all use a little of that right now.

In select theaters and on VOD beginning October 1, 2021

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DATING & NEW YORK (2021)

September 9, 2021

Greetings again from the darkness. One must presume that many Millennials in their mid-to-late 20s will recognize and relate to the characters and situations in this indie Romantic Comedy from writer-director Jonah Feingold. For those born prior to 1980, that’s likely to be more challenging, and in fact, some of the conversations may more closely resemble a foreign language than familiar human exchanges. We can almost picture the emoji’s as these characters speak.

Milo (Jaboukie Young-White) and Wendy (Francesca Reale) are two single New Yorkers who match on the cleverly-named dating app, “Meet Cute”. Of course, that’s also the cinematic description for most every Rom-Com initial introduction since the days of Howard Hawks, Frank Capra, and Ernst Lubitsch. After a perfect first date-turned one-night stand, Milo and Wendy ghost each other. Three weeks later they have a café meeting where Wendy presents a “Best Friends with Benefits” contract. He wants more, while she just wants this. BFWB is a step beyond FWB since it’s more than sex. The two will regularly hang out and offer each other life and relationship advice – but definitely no “I love you” or PDA. Even their friends Hank (Brian Muller) and Jessie (Catherine Cohen) recognize this for the bad idea it is … but Hank and Jessie are too distracted developing their own bond to care too much.

Feingold utilizes some very cool water colors over the opening credits, and Grant Fonda’s score is spot on throughout. There will be comparisons to FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS and NO STRONGS ATTACHED, two movies released in 2011. However, a better and more interesting connection is to see how Feingold was influenced by WHEN HARRY MET SALLY… (1989) and ANNIE HALL (1977), two of the very best romantic comedies. Just keep in mind that this film is for those born in this modern era, where the rules of dating are determined by social media and dating (hook-up) apps. We are told that Millennials are “cursed with choices”.

Feingold’s characters discover break-up email templates (these people can’t subject themselves to face-to-face conflict), the real world expense of wedding planners, the confusing dynamics of haggling over who pays for dinner and drinks, and of course, the importance of guacamole. The characters are believable and seem like folks we could know … except when they speak. Jerry Ferrara (Turtle in “Entourage”) plays doorman Cole and also serves as the film’s narrator, a welcome guide through the reasons behind the actions.

Cinematographer Maria Rusche effectively captures the familiar sites of NYC, as well as the food and drink moments that go with dating. Director Feingold comes up short in his cameo, although in a humorous way. The four lead actors are not yet household names, and probably won’t be recognized by most viewers – though expect them to be part of the next wave. Mostly Feingold keeps things light and cutesy, and whether intentionally or not, reminds us that social media can be manipulative and controlling. Those pushing 30, especially New Yorkers, will likely enjoy seeing their life on screen, while the rest of us simply wonder how hooking up and hanging out isn’t considered a serious relationship.

In select theaters and available on digital beginning September 10, 2021

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MONDAY (2021)

April 15, 2021

Greetings again from the darkness. I will admit upfront that I’m no fan of watching late thirty-somethings living their lives like a never-ending fraternity party. So when the film opens on a disco ball, and we see a woman breaking up with her boyfriend on the phone while the thumping dance blasts, and then she immediately hooks up with the equally-aged DJ … well, I was concerned that writer-director Argyris Papadimitropoulos and co-writer Rob Hayes decided to make this film as a kick to the shins of any job-holding, respectable grown-up movie watcher. Fortunately, it’s not as bad as all that.

The two instant-lovers wake up naked on the beach the next morning and introduce themselves while handcuffed in the back of a police car. Denise Gough (JULIET, NAKED) is Chloe, an immigration lawyer who has been in an abusive relationship, and seemed to move on quickly (minutes later), without much thought. Sebastian Stan (Bucky from “The Avengers” franchise) is Mickey, a party boy DJ who is also an advertising jingle writer. Chloe and Mickey are both American ex-pats living in Athens, Greece. He’s been knocking around for almost 7 years, and after 18 months, she’s now scheduled to head back to the U.S.  And yes, we do get the obligatory frantic airport moment – this one is less touching and more contrived.

The next few weekends basically involve these two going at it like rabbits at any time and in any place. Chloe and Mickey are a beautiful couple in a gorgeous setting, and it’s quite obvious they are incompatible as a couple doing anything other than coupling. If thirty-somethings bonding over partying seems like a recipe for disaster, the party they throw will prove your point. It’s an understatement to say her circle of sophisticated friends don’t mingle well with his group of belligerent scofflaws. Supporting work is provided by Dominique Tipper as Bastian, a former bandmate with Mickey, and Yorgos Pirpassopoulos as Argyris, Mickey’s close friend who wields power locally due to family money.

This is really the Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough show. He’s a good fit as the charming, self-defeating guy who can’t grow up, while she’s an enigma – a woman seemingly too smart to fall for this guy and screw up her life after a weekend fling. Ms. Gough is strong in her ability to create a complex character from a fragmented script that forces her to overcome weak dialogue and absurd situations. As an example, Chloe and Mickey have 3 police encounters … which is 3 more than the average person experiences in a lifetime.

Athens and the island of Antiparos make for a stunning setting for a movie, but the script falls short of the work necessary for this couple to transition from a wild weekend fling to an actual relationship with responsibilities, jobs, and a kid. We see how Chloe feels trapped, but the third act spins out of control as lot of Fridays turn into the titular Monday of reckoning.

In theaters and On Demand April 16, 2021

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SENIOR MOMENT (2021)

March 25, 2021

Greetings again from the darkness. Making concessions to age is something all of us deal with … even former test pilots – although some of them might be a bit less inclined to adapt. Such is the case with Victor Martin. He’s in his 70’s and still enjoys ogling beautiful younger women and zipping around Palm Springs in his vintage Porsche convertible. Some might call it cliché or even pathetic, but Victor and his lifelong pal Sal Spinelli are enjoying life.

Director Giorgio Serafini is working from a script by co-writers Kurt Brungardt and Christopher Momenee, and the first thing viewers must overcome is the casting. See, Victor is played by William Shatner and Sal by Christopher Lloyd. Yep, Captain Kirk from STAR TREK and Doc Brown from BACK TO THE FUTURE are the senior citizen buddies living it up. Both actors seem to be having a good time, and seeing the two men on screen together is quite pleasing.

All good things come to an end, and when the city’s new DA cracks down on dangerous elderly drivers, Victor has his license revoked and his treasured car impounded. He’s frustrated, but by happenstance meets Caroline Summers (a terrific Jean Smart). The two are polar opposites, yet there’s a clear connection. She’s a former National Geographic photographer who now owns and runs the local Cuckoo Café – so named despite the titular time piece not being in working order. Caroline is a free-spirited former hippie, and her organic diet contrasts with Victor’s processed honey buns.

Victor admits he’s “still trying to figure out what I’m going to do when I grow up”, but he soon realizes his attraction to Caroline has impacted him more than he expected. It’s an awkward romance made more challenging by the presence of artist Diego Lozana (Esai Morales) and Caroline’s mystical belief in the story attached to the cuckoo clock. The film is loaded with lunacy and is not one that benefits from viewers who prefer thoughtful messages. This is designed to be mostly light-hearted fun with an element of late-in-life romance tossed in for good measure.

As a gift to its target audience, Ruta Lee (SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, 1954) makes a brief appearance, and of particular note is the final screen appearance by Kaye Ballard (she died at age 93). Also appearing in the supporting cast are Don McManus, Joe Estevez, and Jack Wallace. Maja Stojan plays Sonja, Caroline’s daughter, Carlos Miranda plays Pablo Torres, and director Serafini’s wife, LaDon Drummond makes an appearance as one of Victor’s former flings.

The film has faced numerous delays since it wrapped, and lead William Shatner just recently turned 90 years of age. It’s rare when a movie involves a broken cuckoo clock and a tortoise photo, but it’s even less common for the focus to be on humor and a romance between senior citizens. This is one that plays to its intended audience, and doesn’t much care about the rest.

In theaters and On Demand on March 26, 2021

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WILD MOUNTAIN THYME (2020)

December 10, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. While I have Irish ancestors, the uproar of the Irish press over the accents in the film is a bit puzzling to me. Any frequent movie watcher can tell you that cinema history is filled with actors giving difficult accents their best shot – and the results have ranged from ‘spot’ on to ‘not even close’, and everything in between. As a Texan, I can vouch for the sometimes cringe-inducing ‘not close’ efforts, but I’ve never judged a film by such trivial matters. Why do I start with this? Only to get it out of the way in order to have a more meaningful discussion of the latest film from writer-director John Patrick Shanley (DOUBT, 2008, and an Oscar winner for the MOONSTRUCK screenplay, 1987). It’s based on his 2014 Broadway play, “Outside Mullingar”.

After the breathtaking shots of the Irish countryside over the opening credits, we learn of two neighboring farms belong to the Muldoons and the Reillys. Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt) and Anthony Reilly (Jamie Dornan) have known each other their entire lives, and it’s been assumed by locals that they would someday marry each other. Their elderly parents are dying off, yet what prevents the relationship from deepening beyond “Good morning to ya’” is Anthony’s bizarrely awkward social skills compounded by his constant bickering with his father (Christopher Walken), and his belief in a family curse. The two men still mourn the passing of Anthony’s mother, and Rosemary has her own sadness to deal with … while growing a bit antsy waiting for Anthony to come around.

Anthony’s father is concerned that the family name is in danger of ending, due to his reticence to marry. Because of this, dad decides to give the family farm to another relative. The fun kicks off when Adam (Jon Hamm) arrives. Adam is the stereotypical “Yank” – arrogant and showy, with only a romantic notion of what being an Irish farmer means. If that’s not bad enough news for Anthony, Adam also sets his sights on Rosemary and convinces her to visit him. He can’t imagine how the excitement of New York City contrasted with daily life in Ireland won’t win her over.

We don’t actually see any real farming in the movie, and Anthony’s sullen act gets a bit tiresome, but the message is conveyed well by Ms. Blunt and Mr. Dornan. Filmmaker Shanley has delivered more of a romantic drama than romantic comedy, but there are humorous moments included, not the least of which being Anthony’s practice proposal to a donkey. Ms. Blunt proves again what a fine actor she is, and her sequence inside her home in the final act is terrific. As for the accents, Mr. Dornan’s holds up the best, while Mr. Walken’s downright comical, but the story and characters are what we remember when this one ends … unless, of course, you are part of the Irish media.

In theaters and On Demand November 11, 2020

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THE PROM (2020)

December 3, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. The success of his TV series “Glee” and “American Horror Story” has delivered Ryan Murphy the creative freedom to explore other projects. This time out he directs the cinema version of a Tony-nominated musical, and blends star power with newcomers in an extravaganza meant to fill the gap left by the darkened stages of Broadway during the pandemic. Created by Jack Viertel, with a book and screenplay from Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, it’s a story of homophobia and narcissism, and the battle to defeat both.

Meryl Streep stars as Dee Dee Allen, and along with James Corden as Barry Glickman, their opening night exuberance for “Eleanor! The Eleanor Roosevelt Musical” fades quickly when the reviews hit. Licking their wounds at Sardi’s, the two are told by the producer that nobody likes narcissists. Joined by chorus girl Angie Dickinson (played by Nicole Kidman) and Julliard-educated actor/bartender Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannells), they decide what’s needed to revamp their careers is a ‘cause celebre’. Thanks to Twitter trends, they locate the plight of Emma Nolan (newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman), whose Indiana High School PTA has just voted to cancel prom rather than allow Emma to bring another girl as a date.

As you would imagine, becoming an activist for the wrong reasons (publicity) can make things messy. These flamboyant city slickers aren’t exactly welcomed with open arms by Midwestern folks. Plenty of touching moments occur between Barry and Emma, Barry and Dee Dee, Angie and Emma, Dee Dee and school Principal Mr. Hawkins (Keegan-Michael Key), and mostly, Emma and her closeted girlfriend Alyssa (Ariana DeBose, who will also star in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming remake of WEST SIDE STORY). PTA leader and leading homophobe Mrs. Greene (a fiery Kerry Washington) does a nice job as a bigot and caring parent.

So while a story exists and messages are conveyed, this is, more than anything, a glitzy musical covered in primary colors as only Ryan Murphy can. Each of our main players gets a featured song, with Ms. Streep’s campy “Not About Me” a highlight, along with Ms. Kidman’s Fosse-esque “Zazz”. Mr. Corden probably gets more than his fair share of screen time, while Ms. Pellman and Ms. DeBose shine brightly in their numbers, and both possess lovely voices. Young Ms. Pellman is especially impressive holding her own on screen with Oscar winners Streep and Kidman.

There likely aren’t many gay teen rom-com musicals set in middle-America, especially ones with a Tina Louise reference, but leave it to Ryan Murphy to make it work. There is some quality humor, though it’s likely the song and dance segments are what will draw the audience. Choreographer Casey Nicholaw takes full advantage of the athletic youngsters and fills the screens with backflips and leaps – complimenting the dance moves of the stars. It’s a shame inclusivity must still be addressed, but at least it can be battled in a fun and colorful way.

Opening in theaters December 4, 2020 and on Netflix December 11, 2020

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LOVE, WEDDINGS & OTHER DISASTERS (2020)

December 3, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. Very much in the same mold as the late Garry Marshall’s VALENTINE’S DAY (2010), NEW YEAR’S EVE (2011), and MOTHER’S DAY (2016), this one also utilizes the multi-story approach with all characters ultimately crossing paths as a payoff. If you are familiar with those movies, then you know what to expect here. However, if you are not familiar, there is no good way to prepare you, other than you’ll either love it or hate it.

Writer-director Dennis Dugan has been a frequent Adam Sandler collaborator, with movies landing in the “good” (HAPPY GILMORE, 1996), the “bad” (GROWN UPS 2, 2013), and the “ugly” (JACK & JILL, 2011). Mr. Dugan’s co-writers here are married couple Eileen Conn and Larry Miller. The cast includes Oscar winners Diane Keaton (ANNIE HALL, 1977) and Jeremy Irons (REVERSAL OF FORTUNE, 1991), and many faces you’ll recognize from other films.

The opening sequence will be enough to let you know where you fall on the ‘love it or hate it’ scale. Jessie (Maggie Grace, TAKEN) is skydiving with her local news anchor fiancé, and their mid-dive argument leads to a break-up and a crash landing into a lakeside wedding. The video (there’s always a video these days) goes viral, and Jessie becomes a social media celebrity burdened with the moniker, “Wedding Trasher” … not the best marketing for a wannabe wedding planner.

Jessie goes up against legendary wedding planner Lawrence (Mr. Irons) for the soon-to-be Mayor’s wedding, which loosely ties into the Mayor’s brother’s participation in a TV Game Show called “Crash Couples”, where mismatched folks are chained together in hopes of taking home the one million dollar prize. The show is hosted by the film’s director, Dennis Dugan. Lawrence is an egomaniacal high-falutin wedding planner and all-around rude dude who gets set up on a blind date with Sara (Diane Keaton), who is, yes, actually blind. Her entrance is just one of the painfully overdone physical pratfalls dropped in throughout the film, presumably to appeal to a wider comedy audience.

Andrew Bachelor plays the charismatic laugh-a-minute guide on a Duck tour who goes searching for his “Cinderella” … love at first sight for him. Next up we have Diego Bonita as a sensitive guitar player in the band Jessie wants to hire for the Mayor’s wedding. And I’ve yet to mention the involvement of the mafia thanks to the Mayor’s brother’s partner in the “Crash Couples” game. The multitude of characters and story lines all intersect at the wedding Jessie has planned – an event with hurdles just high enough for her to conquer. Some of the characters tie in more easily than others, but it’s best to just go with the flow here, no matter how cringe-inducing it might be at times.

On the bright side that surely most of us can agree on, Elle King (Rob Schneider’s daughter) is superb as the singer in the park who reappears throughout. Her songs fit the story, and her voice and sound are top notch and quite welcome. Romantic comedies sometimes get a bum rap, and few slide as cleanly into the “love it or hate it” mode as this one.

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