The Wedding Weekend

Alternate Title: Shut Up and Sing
Director: Bruce Leddy

Even though I’m consistently inspired by the sheer poetry penned by my favorite movie critics (you guys know who you are!), recently I’ve become dismayed by a disappointing trend as-- those chosen geniuses aside-- a shockingly large amount of film criticism has become increasingly repetitive. This was especially apparent with last week’s most frequently obvious tagline of “What Happens in Vegas should have stayed in Vegas,” and will no doubt occur again when enough reviewers take in writer/director Bruce Leddy’s unbelievably clichéd male bonding film The Wedding Weekend. To explain: a simple film criticism scavenger hunt for similar phrases in other reviews will probably reach the double digits in less than twenty minutes when one considers not only Leddy’s film’s original title (see above) but also the fact that his inauthentic main characters routinely greet each other not with the “Wuzzzzuup” of beer commercials but with the phrase “Shut Up.” You can imagine the variations favored by reviewers across the country all still reeling from a lackluster film venting their frustration via their keyboards, looking for the best way to work in the phrase "Shut Up"-- cherishing the fact that instead of being given a time-out for saying it in school, they’re earning a guaranteed laugh. And indeed, it’s hard when a joke is that obvious, repetitive, fitting and readily available to will oneself to dig deeper; in fact I found myself leaving the theatre with the lyrics of the infectious hit “Shut Up & Let Me Go” by The Ting Tings (aka the song from the latest iPod commercial which you can download below) playing in my head and wishing I’d listened to that on repeat for ninety minutes instead of taking in the flick. While we can’t always force inspiration, especially when critiquing an ode to mediocrity, I thought I’d fight the urge to shout “Shut Up” and-- taking a cue from the man who inspired me to write about film, Roger Ebert—segue into the review with an anecdote.

A few years ago, I foolishly gave into well-intentioned peer pressure in consenting to a blind date. After the predictably inauspicious beginning best characterized as “Hugh Grant styled bumbling,” the conversation flowed a bit more freely when we started discussing film (I know, big surprise!). And in switching gears to other topics, delightedly we discovered a few other things in common-- however, instead of driving forward, our burgeoning relationship stalled unbelievably with my date’s admission that his greatest passion in life was a cappella music. Out of equal parts Midwestern politeness and downright curiosity, I tried to feign enthusiasm but no doubt an eyebrow was raised when he shared his experiences performing as part of a larger ensemble in college and the high he felt singing with other men. I’m sure you’re with me in wondering whether or not—ahem-- I was exactly his type but he was a sweet kid so I tried to show interest until a few firework-less dates later, I found a way to insert what I call my “old reliable” (aka the traditional “friends” speech).

Perhaps like carnivals or clowns, republicans or scientologists, renaissance festivals or Star Trek conventions, there’s just something odd about a cappella. And it’s all the stranger in The Wedding Weekend when we’re introduced to the pastime without even a trace of justifiable explanation by writer/director Bruce Leddy who seems so convinced that the entire world shares his love of a cappella that he repeatedly creates more opportunities for his gorgeous sounding but awkward group to perform, even going as far as to find the lead characters land in the slammer alongside an intimidating man who-- wouldn’t you know-- melts like butter in discovering their like-mindedness as they sow their oats in a rousing musical number. It’s this complete absence of irony or an even tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of the ridiculousness of Leddy’s situations that brings out the cynic in audience members, especially even those, like me, who normally love the sound of human beings singing in harmony.

Reuniting for a wedding fifteen years after they shared the “youthful bliss of ignorance” performing in a collegiate a capella group, it seems not much has changed for the seven member male chorus. While Steven (David Alan Basche) has moved to California to launch a reality television show starring Vanna White and takes prodding to return to the Hamptons to celebrate the nuptials of Greg (yummy Mark Feuerstein) with whom he’d fallen out with over a “stolen” girlfriend, the main five continually delight in every opportunity to sing together on a New York street corner during their lunch hours. Although still preoccupied with sex and how to get it, the men seem eager to get a jumpstart on each of their mid-life crises, alienating the women in their lives, with David (David Harbour) who, after changing the subject from having children with enough baseball analogies to annoy a television commentator, instead fixates on measuring his receipting hairline (oh yeah--good times!). While it’s obvious that Leddy intended most of the laughs to derive from the hammy performance of Reg Rogers, who seems to be doing a cross between a Neil Simon era Jack Lemmon impression and standard musical comedy dinner theatre, playing a cynical recently divorced lawyer going on his five hundredth day of disappointing celibacy, Saturday Night Live alumni Molly Shannon steals every scene she’s in as the unhappy, lust-filled potty mouthed wife of workaholic Ted (Alexander Chaplin). Although relegated to mostly window dressing or being directed to look on in disappointment or with rolled eyes at the men whose ultimate catchphrase is “Shut Up,” the women seem to be the only relatable ones in the film, even when we’re served up a few more clichés such as a Martha Stewart like Hollywood wife and a twenty-three year old Swedish nanny named Elsa (Camilla Thorsson) whom the guys hope may offer Richard a "pity jump."

Inexplicably, The Wedding Weekend earned five film festival accolades including an Audience Award from the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, which makes one wonder just what the other screenings were like. However, for audiences given a larger range of options, there’s no need to pretend you’re on a blind date and feign politeness in the multiplex; Leddy’s overly theatrical staged offering would have been better suited for a musical theatre production where not only the scenery chewing actors would have felt more at home but the a cappella wouldn’t have seemed so out of place. For a thematically similar yet infinitely better male bonding movie, hit your local video store to check out the Film Intuition favorite Beautiful Girls or download the song below from iTunes for the best recent recitation of “Shut Up" not found in countless movie reviews.

"Shut Up & Let Me Go" by The Ting Tings
The Ting Tings - Shut Up and Let Me Go - Single - Shut Up and Let Me Go