If comedy is half in the writing and half in the delivery, then Wedding Crashers is a film filled with moments of half-greatness. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn star as pals who work as divorce mediators by day, then spend their weekends sneaking into weddings in order to meet women with lowered inhibitions and heightened senses of romance. Eventually, they end up at a wedding thrown by high-ranking politician Christopher Walken. These are three actors who know how to use charisma, infectious arrogance, or eccentric magnetism to make even the weakest line produce at least a mild chuckle.
Sadly, in spite of its cast and seemingly can't-miss premise, Wedding Crashers is at its best a succession of mild chuckles. Directed by David Dobkin (Shanghai Knights) and written by the new team of Steve Faber and Bob Fisher, Wedding Crashers coasts on the good will generated by its stars. It opens with a sequence following Vaughn and Wilson as they worm their way into a whole season's worth of weddings of all traditions and ethnicities, deploying variations on the same reliable tricks in order to avoid going home alone. It's not exactly funny, but it at least has energy, and in this day of near-mandatory PG-13 movies, it has the courage to be refreshingly R-rated. Then the pair visits Walken's country estate, and the energy dies. Wilson and Vaughn start playing the straight men to Walken's eccentric patrician family, and the film turns into an old-money variation on Meet The Parents.
And not a good one, either. When Wilson isn't trying to woo Walken's daughter (Rachel McAdams) away from her boorish boyfriend, he's being sexually harassed by Walken's wife (Jane Seymour). Vaughn takes a load of buckshot in the ass while hunting for quail, and fends off the advances of Walken's "artistic" (read: "creepy and gay") son. It unfolds at the stately pace of an Andrei Tarkovsky film, and it's all played broadly and clumsily, with gags that seem more inspired by the American Pie series than the mostly smart (or at least quirky) comedies that Vaughn and Wilson usually choose. A surprise late-film cameo from a member of the usual gang (hint: not Ben Stiller, but the other one) livens things up a little, but it also raises a troubling question: Vaughn, Wilson, and their pals have emerged in the past few years as the most reliable big-budget comic collective since the first batch of Saturday Night Live vets started making movies in the late '70s and early '80s. Did they have to shift from their Caddyshack moment to their Spies Like Us phase so quickly?