If director David Dobkin has specialized in one thing, it’s been getting unexpected mileage out of questionable material. His debut “Clay Pigeons” made a virtue of absurdity (Joaquin Phoenix enduring a series of calamities that make Job’s seem mild), and “Shanghai Knights” actually entertained despite some forced historical references.With “Wedding Crashers” Dobkin even makes two philandering liars named Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) and John (Owen Wilson) lovable. The two have a unique vice that’s intriguing simply for its sheer oddity.
The two show up unannounced and (of course) uninvited at ritzy nuptials and help themselves to mountains of free food and legions of bridesmaids longing for a romantic attachment similar to the one they’ve just witnessed from the sidelines.
It’s unimportant to know the lads’ real last names because they change depending on the ethnicity of the wedding. The duo show up as Jews or Hindus and even pass as Chinese when they feel like it. Copious research and their winning personalities silence the curious.
At first, guilt never consumes them because they spend their days working as divorce mediators. Since this is where most couples end up anyway, where’s the harm?
The scheme starts to crumble when John begins developing a conscience and the two of them mount their biggest assault yet.
The Secretary of the Treasury (Christopher Walken) has a daughter about to wed, so the two begin their crashing. But John is instantly smitten with his other daughter Claire (Rachel McAdams), and Jeremy can’t escape the amorous advances and clingy demands of her sister Gloria (Australian Isla Fischer, who basically owns the movie).
Throughout all the mayhem that ensues, Dobkin wisely lets his lead performers specialize at what they do best, playing manipulators who aren’t quite as suave as they imagine themselves to be. Jeremy and John’s lapses (like cover stories that occasionally collapse under scrutiny) make them more human.
Still, as they begin to try to question their “commitment is for schmucks” attitude, the film loses momentum and feels stale. One of the things that makes “Diner” such a treat is that writer-director Barry Levinson wisely left moralizing to his audience, figuring they were sharp enough to determine out that imitating the characters was unwise.
In “Wedding Crashers,” Dobkin and screenwriters Steve Faber and Bob Fisher drag out Jeremy and John’s crisis of faith and make their evolution more pat than believable. There’s a subplot involving Claire’s obnoxiously hypocritical boyfriend that eventually pays off, but almost crumbles because it’s so heavily handed.
On the plus side, Dobkin’s cast is deep and full of fun surprises. Keep an eye out cameos from real political figures and from the likes of Jane Seymour. Their appearances help break some of the monotony in the third act.Dobkin has managed to make a raunchy comedy that delivers enough laughs to merit its randy ambitions. But now that it works, it’s a shame that he didn’t aim just a little bit higher.