Critiquing movies from a completely independent viewpoint, devoid of personal emotion, is impossible. There’s an argument to be made that maybe this would be ideal – and, I guess, at its most basic level, something like Rotten Tomatoes fulfills that wish; people today do seem to like getting their film criticism from an aggregated number – because personal experiences can form an attachment to a movie that’s impossible for anyone else to replicate. (I think this is a good thing.) Sometimes we are conscious of this – it’s easy to connect the dots if, say, a movie is about the loss of a loved one and we just personally lost a loved one. Sometimes it’s not that easy. Sometimes we don’t know why a seemingly inane or forgettable movie speaks to us in a certain way. Anyway, this was kind of a long-winded way of trying to explain my kind of bizarre love for Wedding Crashers.
Wedding Crashers turns ten years old this year, which in itself is odd because it will always kind of feel like a movie that came out “around five years ago.” It’s the story of two men, John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughn), who like to attend weddings, which neither of them were invited to, in an effort to meet women. The premise alone sounds gross. Plus, I don’t know many people who get excited at the prospect of the attending weddings of people they actually know, let alone weddings in which all of the other guests are strangers. John and Jeremy come up with way too elaborate backstories in an effort to fool the other guests — guests who, in real life, would have no real reason to out John and Jeremy, let alone care that either of them is getting a little bit of free booze.
(A few years ago, I accidentally walked into the wrong wedding reception at one of those banquet halls that hosts multiple receptions at the same time. I was in there for about 15 minutes before I realized I was in the wrong place. No one noticed or cared that I was there. I had two glasses of Prosecco. I didn’t use a fake name.)
John eventually becomes smitten with an engaged woman named Claire Cleary (Rachel McAdams, in a movie that inexplicably doesn’t involve time travel) and, somehow, John and Jeremy wind up spending the weekend with the Cleary family (and Claire’s father, the Secretary of Treasury, played boisterously by Christopher Walken). At one point they all play touch football. The two eventually get outed as frauds (of course they do) and the rest of the film is about John trying to win the heart of Claire — and Jeremy’s relationship with Claire’s sister, Gloria (Isla Fisher) — even though every single thing John had told Claire up to that point was a lie, including his name. People don’t like being tricked! Everything about this movie is dumb and makes very little sense. Wedding Crashers would gross $285 million worldwide.
On Tuesday night, one of the HBOs was playing Wedding Crashers, a movie I had not watched in its entirety since it was released in theaters. The oddest thing about watching Wedding Crashers in 2015 is the presence of Bradley Cooper, who plays Claire’s fiancé, the still hilariously named Sack Lodge. (The best thing about this name is the way that Christopher Walken would enunciate the name so it didn’t sound like “Zack” – “So, Ssssssssssss-ACK.”) It’s just an odd thing, now, to watch Cooper playing what essentially is the evil bully. (Or to watch Cooper in a movie that he’s playing sixth fiddle behind Vince Vaughn.) At one point, Sack actually shoots Jeremy. No charges are filed.
In 2012, I interviewed David O. Russell, Cooper’s director on Silver Linings Playbook. I didn’t ask Russell about Wedding Crashers specifically, but during the interview, he brought it up, saying, “You know, when I saw Bradley in Wedding Crashers, he was 30 or 40 pounds heavier than he is now. And he seemed like a sincerely angry person with the character he was playing. I asked him about that when I met him, and his answer really told me that he was a guy who had a lot of chops that hadn’t been brought out yet. His answer was that he had been heavier and angrier and more fearful — it was such an open answer and such an honest answer.”
This is an astute observation by Russell and it paints Cooper’s performance as Sack in a different light. Watching now, Russell is correct: Cooper just seems really angry. It works out, because that anger fits Sack – but he’s almost in a different movie than Wilson and Vaughn. The two leads are engaging in witty banter. Bradley Cooper is there as a rage machine.
I realize I called Wedding Crashers “dumb,” but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good movie or isn’t funny – it’s still very funny. And, boy, David Dobkin’s direction is tight — the movie just pings along at such a delightful pace, there’s really very little slack (earning its current emotion-free 75 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes). And Wilson and Vaughn do have great chemistry, so much so that it’s mystifying how a movie like The Internship can be so bad.
Oh, yeah, that strange emotional attachment: When Wedding Crashers was first released, I had only lived in New York City a few months and I had just gone through a breakup. I didn’t really know many people at the time and this was before social media made it easy to talk to really anyone at any time. I discovered the absolute joy of attending movies by myself (it’s strange, but when I lived in the Midwest, I thought of this as a weird thing; living in New York, I love doing this).
I remember buying my ticket at a theater that no longer exists at East 64th and 2nd Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “One for Wedding Crashers, please.” I had this overwhelming sense that I was being judged, as if I was buying porn. “Oh, who’s that guy with no friends.”
Anyway, the next day I decided to go back because I had nothing better to do and it didn’t seem as weird. I just kind of liked being around these guys; loneliness is a weird emotion and these two wedding-loving knuckleheads made me forget about all that. (I soon discovered it also wasn’t a terrible thing to go to a bar by myself and I didn’t go to movies quite as often.) And watching Wedding Crashers again this past Tuesday night, I started feeling a weird sense of nostalgia – which goes to prove even further that nostalgia is bunk because I was pretty miserable in 2005 and I am (mostly) not miserable now. I digress.
It’s kind of remarkable that a sequel to Wedding Crashers was never made. Think of a movie that successful coming out in 2015 without being immediately green-lit for another go-around. Sure, it absolutely ruined a movie like the also-Bradley Cooper-starring The Hangover, but those two sequels grossed just under one billion dollars combined. David Dobkin would go on to direct movies like Fred Clause and Robert Downey Jr.’s 2014 non-Iron Man movie, The Judge, but there was never much of a fuss about making another Wedding Crashers, which is probably for the best. Wedding Crashers is just a funny movie that came, went, made a lot of money, launched the career of Bradley Cooper … and got at least one person through a difficult time.
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and GQ. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.