Tag Archives: D

LOVE, WEDDINGS & OTHER DISASTERS

Producers: Dennis Dugan, Martin Metz, Adrian Politowsky, Dan Reardon, Nadine de Barros and Mike Rachmil   Director: Dennis Dugan   Screenplay: Dennis Dugan   Cast: Diane Keaton, Jeremy Irons, Maggie Grace, Andrew Bachelor, Andy Goldenberg, Melinda Hill, Diego Boneta, Dennis Staroselsky, Caroline Portu, Dennis Dugan, Jesse McCartney, Chandra West, Elle King, Todd Stashwick, Rachel Wirtz and Veronica Ferres   Distributor: Saban Films

Grade: D

If you thought that the ensemble rom-coms Garry Marshall made in the twilight of his career were terrible, Dennis Dugan’s almost makes them palatable.  Despite the efforts of a game cast, “Love, Weddings & Other Disasters” is a positively painful collection of interlocking romantic sketches—like a sodden episode of the old “Love Boat” series.

The glue holding the interconnected vignettes together is Jessie (Maggie Grace), a florist who forces her fiancé, a Boston TV anchorman, to go skydiving with her; he breaks up with her in mid-descent, after which they land in a lakeside wedding ceremony, a disaster that earns her the nickname “The Wedding Trasher” online.  An inveterate klutz, she later bumps into Lawrence Phillips (Jeremy Irons), a stuck-up, perfectionist wedding planner, outside a Boston church.  He’s just been fired from the nuptials of mayor candidate Robert Barton (Dennis Staroselsky) , so she’s offered the job despite her inexperience.

Meanwhile Lawrence is saddled with a blind date with Sara (Diane Keaton), who, being literally blind, destroys one of his carefully-prepared wedding decorations.  Nevertheless they connect and he melts under her supposedly kooky influence, even helping Jessie arrange the Barton ceremony. 

But that is threatened by Robert’s dumb-as-a-post brother Jimmy (Andy Goldenberg), a sad sack who’s deeply in debt to his bookie and tries to win a million bucks on a sleazy TV quiz show hosted by Eddie Stone (Dugan), which literally chains incompatible couples together; a vote will determine which of the duos that manage not to break the chain wins.  Among the couples are an Amazon and a dwarf, and an Arab and a rabbi (both men, but who cares?).  Jimmy’s partner is Svetlana (Melinda Hill), who claims to be a lawyer but is actually a stripper named Olga with a surly Russian mobster boyfriend. 

Then there’s Ritchie (Andrew Bachelor), the joke-spouting tour guide on a converted Boston duck boat, who falls for one of his customers, a quick-witted girl he calls his Cinderella (Rachel Wirtz) because of a tattoo of a glass slipper on her neck.  Unfortunately he loses her in the crowd before he can ask her name, and is forced to try to find her via a TV campaign arranged by a fan, who just happens to be the co-host of a program with Jessie’s erstwhile fiancée, who’s still wearing a neck brace on air.

As for Jennie, she meets her soul mate when searching for a band to play at Robert’s wedding reception.  He’s Mack (Diego Boneta), whom she pairs up, after his mate Lenny (Jessie McCartney) abruptly quits, with the park singer (Elle King) whose bland tunes have served as linking devices throughout.  The reception of course is a great success, and whom do you think Ritchie, whose TV campaign attracted lots of potential dates but no Cinderella, finds there among the wait staff?

If all this sounds contrived and mirthless, rest assured it’s worse in the watching than in the telling.  Dugan, who’s long been part of Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison operation, has no talent for finesse, as his own performance here amply demonstrates, and under his heavy hand most of the cast overdo things badly.  Even Keaton and Irons, who have done exemplary work in the past, are flummoxed by the witless material and crude staging.  (Compare their initial glass-crashing sequence with the similar one in W.C. Fields’s “It’s A Gift,” for instance—his brilliant, theirs embarrassing.)  Butcher is forced into what feels like a bad Kevin Hart imitation, while Goldenberg and Hill must endure a particularly hapless succession of crass episodes.  Meanwhile Grace, who’s meant to be a cheery presence holding it all together, is near-obnoxious.         

Technically matters aren’t much better.  Nick Remy Matthews’ lensing and Matt C. Stone’s production design make little of the Boston locations, and Julie Garcés’ editing can do little with the ungainly narrative structure.  The score by Noah Needleman and Keaton Simons, with some intervention from Dugan, is predictably overemphatic.

Garry Marshall extended his late-career series of vapid ensemble rom-coms into a trilogy—“Valentine’s Day,” “New Year’s Eve” and “Mother’s Day.”  We can only hope that Dugan’s misguided foray in the genre will be a one-off.  

LAST THREE DAYS

Producers: Julianne Ulrich and Brian Ulrich   Director: Brian Ulrich   Screenplay: Brian Ulrich   Cast: Robert Palmer Watkins, Thomas Wilson Brown, Deborah Lee Smith, Roy Huang, Gina Hiraizumi, Holly Hawkins, Clint Jong, John Rozelle, Stacey Hinnen and Jay Pennick   Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

Grade: D+

It seems to be a year for time-twisting movies, first ”Tenet” and now “Last Three Days.”  Of course Brian Ulrich’s threadbare effort is on a much smaller scale than Christopher Nolan’s big-budget extravaganza; the total cost probably was about a tenth of the catering expenses on the Warner Brothers behemoth.

What the two movies share is a considerable degree of narrative confusion.  “Last Three Days” begins conventionally enough—indeed, too much so, with a brief bloody teaser that’s repeated later on in the action leading into a long prologue recounting the cute college meeting of Jack (Robert Palmer Watkins) and Beth (Deborah Lee Smith).  (Both look rather too old to be college students, but no big deal.)  They both like to study under the shade of the same tree, and bicker which should have the pleasure.  They both also appreciate C.S. Lewis’ disquisition on the various kinds of love, which of course points to their falling in one of them.  And he proposes.

Skip ahead seven years and their marriage has hit a rough patch.  Beth works in a hospital alongside her mother (Holly Hawkins).  Jack is a cop just made detective who’s trying to prove himself on the narcotics squad, which keeps him away from home a lot, to his wife’s distress.  He even misses their anniversary dinner. 

Instead he spends most of his time with the guys on the squad, a rowdy bunch, and particularly his veteran partner Dave (Thomas Wilson Brown).  Dave, one of those rebel lawmen who break all the rules, wants to worm his way into a Japanese drug gang that’s laying down roots in the city with a new product, and drags Jack into meetings with its slinky boss (Gina Hiraizumi) and her chief enforcer (Roy Huang), telling him it’s the route to bringing the gang down.  But In the process Jack is slipped a bit of the drug himself. 

That’s when the time-shifts kick in.  Jack crawls home and goes to bed, and when he awakens he finds that Dave has been killed and Beth kidnapped.  Not only that, but he’s lost a full three days out of his life and has to scramble to save Beth and find out what happened to Dave, before he’s taken in.   (Cue that opening teaser again.)  

What follows is that Jack relives bits and pieces of the time he’s forgotten, trying to fix what was broken during that lost weekend.  His watch and phone—which is broken at one point but appears in pristine shape at other moments—provide a means of situating things, at least approximately, but the way the pieces fit together is only gradually revealed as the fights, gun battles, double-crosses and close shaves accumulate.  There are flashbacks to the college years, too, which we really don’t need to remind us of the undying love Jack and Beth are supposed to have.

At one point Jack visits his mother-in-law in the hospital in “present” time to ask whether drugs can alter time.  She replies that they can change the perception of time, but not its real passage—a scientific answer of doubtful accuracy in this case.

It will come as little surprise that Jack eventually works through the morass of accumulated data and in some cases uses his knowledge of the “future” to save the day—or one of them.  One could say that love conquers all,

If this were a Nolan movie, a viewer might be inclined to rerun it and attempt to fit the pieces together, but Ulrich’s script isn’t clever enough to be worth the effort to figure out the fractured narrative, and it’s unlikely the picture’s plot would emerge clearly anyway.  Jack and Beth, the characters we’re supposed to care about, are a bland, uninteresting pair, and woodenly played by Watkins and Smith.  Brown is a bit more convincing as scruffy Dave, but still just a caricature from a typically mediocre cop show on the tube.  The supporting cast offer pretty stilted performances.

On the other hand, the craft contributions aren’t bad for a movie made on a tight budget.  Megan Mead’s production design is just serviceable, but Chris James Haggerty’s lensing is fairly sharp, while Hannah Parrott’s score tries hard to generate tension.  That the editing by Blake Kliewer, Natalie Comstock and Ulrich is jerky was probably inevitable given the plot, but it might have been sharper in the long first act, which really drags. 

It’s just best to forget “Last Three Days” the way the protagonist does.  And you don’t need a drug to do it.