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
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.