Brian Henry Martin at the movies

De Niro's Big Wedding

Published Thursday, 30 May 2013
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He's made nearly 100 films and shows no sign of slowing down, even though he is turning 70 this summer ...

But for the last ten years, Robert De Niro's impeccable screen career has been on the slide, with the previously heavyweight method actor bizarrely preferring lightweight comic roles.

Recently, he enjoyed an unexpected revival after an Oscar-nominated star turn in Silver Linings Playbook. But is De Niro really a King of Comedy? Or is his work best when he's playing bad fellas? Well, maybe his new film, the romantic comedy The Big Wedding will determine if De Niro is untouchable once again.

"There's an old saying that marriage is like a phone call in the night" says Don Griffin (played by De Niro). "First comes the ring, then you wake up". He's the well heeled adopted father of the groom, as his Colombian son Alejandro (Ben Barnes) is set to marry the prissy Missy (Amanda Seyfried).

But there's to be deception at the reception, as De Niro's Don is forced to abandon his lover Bebe (Susan Sarandon) in favour of his divorced wife Ellie (Dianne Keaton). All this to appease their adoptive son's ultra conservative biological mother Madonna (Patricia Rae) who has flown in for the big day from South America.

Add to the nutty nuptials, Jared (Topher Grace) their 30-year-old virgin son, Lyla (Katherine Heigl), their secretly pregnant daughter and Father Moinighan (Robin Williams), a reverend on the rehab.

The Big Wedding with its big cast should be joyous. But writer/ director Justin Zackham who penned The Bucket List, this time scribes just the bucket - the sick bucket.

This is not so much Meet The Fockers as meet the shockers. The jokes are something old, nothing new, mainly borrowed and sadly blue. De Niro is a shadow of his former self, not so much Taxi Driver as taxidermy. A stuffy performance in which he is slapped, punched and boked on.

After a succession of seaside-style sex jokes, the one-time Jake La Motta is more like a shaggy Sid James. "Are you talking to me?" Yes, Robert I am. Why are you making this guff? Surely, you must know that this lame script is raging bull.

Oscar-winning actresses Sarandon and Keaton fair no better, not even they can make a silk purse from a pig's ear. Robin Williams continues to defy his comic talent with a dreadfully dull cameo. Remember when the San Francisco funny man used to light up the screen with his inventive brilliance?

The last time I remember seeing De Niro and Williams together was in the powerful drama Awakenings back in 1991. This was the real life story of catatonic patients remarkably revived back to life.

Ironic then, that The Big Wedding offers the reverse experience, with this time the unamused audience being slowly induced into a cinematic coma.

The Big Wedding (Cert 15) is now on general release.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.

Twice.

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