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‘Father of the Bride, Part II’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 08, 1995


Charles Shyer
Steve Martin;
Martin Short;
Diane Keaton;
Kimberly Williams;
Kieran Culkin;
George Newbern;
Eugene Levy
sexual situations, insensitivity toward Arabs and about 90 minutes worth of innocuous hell

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Before trashing "Father of the Bride, Part II," let's recap the original "Father of the Bride." I'm not referring to the superior, 1950 movie starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor. I mean the 1991 box office hit, in which Steve Martin reacted with amusing horror to the impending nuptials of his only daughter (Kimberly Williams).

"Father of the Bride," a passable little caper, was essentially an enjoyable excuse for Martin's comic reactions—those rubbery facial contortions, that horrified glint in the eyes. The other characters, including Williams, Diane Keaton (Martin's wife), Martin Short (the decorator) and George Newbern (the accursed suitor), were merely conduits, excuses to get Martin steamed and flabbergasted.

Well, the cast is back for "Father of the Bride, Part II," but the sequel (based on "Father's Little Dividend," the 1951 sequel to the Spencer Tracy movie) comes and goes with an extended whimper. Make that two whimpers. After Martin is buffeted with the news that his daughter is pregnant, he takes an even tougher blow to the chest: His wife's expecting too. It seems the older couple's recent, amorous bout in the kitchen cooked up more than they bargained for.

The movie, written and directed by repeat offenders Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer (the schmaltzmeisters who brought you "Private Benjamin," "Baby Boom," "I Love Trouble" and "Father of the Bride") is more like an over-cute primer on family love than an outright comedy.

The story (which departs from the infinitely better "Dividend") is a dull shopping list of episodes: Martin's horrified reactions to being a grandfather, his appalled response to being a father and finally, his capitulation to sensitive fatherhood (and grandfatherhood).

In other developments, Williams contemplates a move to Boston. Keaton (before she learns she's pregnant) thinks she's going through menopause. And Martin impulsively sells his precious home to Eugene Levy, playing a humorless, money-grubbing Arab developer. When Martin realizes Levy is about to bulldoze his long-held memories, he begs for the house back. The coldhearted Levy then bleeds him for an additional profit of $100,000. I'm sure Arabs and Arab Americans everywhere will be charmed and heartened by this insensitive cultural characterization.

Speaking of money, there's also a rather unsettling undercurrent (or undercurrency) to everything. Family living comes at a dauntingly high price. After writing a check to Levy for a hundred grand, the affluent Martin commissions effete decorator-designer Short (an annoying spin on the mystery-accented character played by Bronson Pinchot in "Beverly Hills Cop") to cater an obviously expensive, double baby shower, then build a veritable cathedral of a baby room. Taking a guess, I'd say the extension cost Martin another $100,000.

Martin's comic charisma, which kept the first movie alive, is buried under a banal avalanche of trite comic situations. He has a few fleeting moments, his face registering those familiar double takes. When Martin has to contend with the inevitable delivery room finale doped up on sleeping pills, the situation speaks all too ironically for the movie: The flesh is willing but the script is weak.

FATHER OF THE BRIDE, PART II (PG) — Contains sexual situations, insensitivity toward Arabs and about 90 minutes worth of innocuous hell.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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