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‘Father of the Bride, Part II’

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 08, 1995

 


Director:
Charles Shyer
Cast:
Steve Martin;
Martin Short;
Diane Keaton;
Kimberly Williams;
George Newbern;
Eugene Levy;
Kieran Culkin
PG
Parental guidance suggested


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"Father of the Bride, Part II" is a virtual avalanche of cheap emotion. Short on comedy but long on maudlin sentiment, this sequel to the Steve Martin/Diane Keaton remake of the 1950 Spencer Tracy/Elizabeth Taylor classic stumps so hard for the traditional values of home, hearth and family that any possible entertainment value is canceled out.

Written and directed by Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers—the couple who created the not unlikable prequel—the film picks up the story of George Banks (Martin) and his affluent brood roughly a year after the nuptial festivities of Part I. George has gotten over the trauma of his precious daughter's marriage, and has even begun to dream about the life that he and his wife, Nina (Keaton), will have together after their son (Kieran Culkin) leaves the family nest for college.

Then, out of nowhere, daughter Annie (Kimberly Williams) and her husband, Bryan (George Newbern), announce that they are expecting a visit from the stork. Everyone else is deliriously happy; George switches into Chicken Little mode. Distraught over the notion of being a grandfather, George embarks on a campaign to rejuvenate himself, working out at the gym, dyeing his hair and impulsively selling their Leave-It-to-Beaver-style family manse.

The made-over George (decked out like a Versace gigolo) doesn't last long; still, he manages to sneak up on a startled Nina for a romantic tryst on the kitchen floor. But this burst of youthful exuberance only lands him in further trouble.

Shortly afterward, Nina begins having erratic mood swings and an upset tummy. They think she is going through "the change," but a visit to the doctor confirms that Grandma and Grandpa are pregnant, too.

What follows is rather dispirited and all-too-predictable. The hope, of course, is that comic performers of such proven genius as Martin Short (who reprises his inspired role as marble-mouthed "wadding chorrodinatter" Franck), Martin and Keaton will bring brilliance to the predictable. But, with fleeting exceptions, the stars appear to be saving themselves for a big moment that never comes. Yes, Short is a riot trying to lug a doped-up Martin to the door when Annie goes into labor (Franck pauses mid-crisis to fantasize about how he would decorate the Bankses' living room). But while we get a chance to visit the goodwill we feel toward these stars, that's about it.

As with the first film, there's some strange stuff going on here, not the least of which is the spectacle of Martin transforming himself into a poor imitation of Chevy Chase (himself a poor imitation). The remake, Part I, was a virtual orgy of consumerism, and the same delirious materialism is on display in Part II. You feel as if you were watching a series of generic ads screaming "Buy! Buy!"

The filmmakers couldn't be more out of touch, especially when it comes to money. To symbolize George's return to sanity, they have the character buy back his home (from a money-grubbing Middle Eastern businessman, no less) by whipping out his checkbook and dashing off a check for $100,000. All right, it's a harmless comedy. But are we really supposed to identify with these people?

And the Freudian implications of the daughter/mother/bride confusion at the story's core is something we don't even want to begin to contemplate.

Father of the Bride, Part II is rated PG-13.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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