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‘Father of the Bride’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 20, 1991


Charles Shyer
Steve Martin;
Diane Keaton;
Martin Short;
Kimberly Williams;
George Newbern;
B.D. Wong
Parental guidance suggested

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At first, "Father of the Bride" is so funny, it's almost sublime. The explanation is simple: It's all Steve Martin. Faced with the sobering news of his daughter's betrothal, his rubbery face projects every known blow to the paternal ego.

The rest of the movie, alas, is regrets only. Unless you gasp at the mere sight of a bride in white, you'll be barging through tuxedoed guests to run screaming from this ceremony.

Shoe executive Martin's happy-clam existence is shattered over dinner when offspring Kimberly Williams gives him the word. She wants to tie the knot with someone called Bryan. What does Bryan do? He's an "independent communications consultant." Things get worse. The future son-in-law comes visiting with an armful of brown-nosing techniques and mislobbed sincerities. The engagement, he acknowledges to stunned parents Martin and Diane Keaton, "must have been heavy -- to use a word from your generation."

After a provocative setup, this Touchstone Pictures offering pads innocuously down the aisle, a remake that doesn't touch the Spencer Tracy classic of the same name. It's just another corporate bid for a hit, full of product placements and marital sitcom shenanigans. Very often it looks as though Bride magazine scripted the whole affair. Undoubtedly, there's an audience for it. At a recent sneak preview, for instance, an entire row of young women oohed and aahed their way through this bridal catwalk of a movie.

The soundtrack is rigged with over-familiar, mood-jogging hits, as if the producers are concerned we're not feeling enough. "My Girl," for instance, plays and replays with an elbow-nudging overzealousness that could bruise. Speaking of special affects, Martin Short plays the family's "wedding coordinator" with the kind of effeminate bluster that would embarrass the cast of "La Cage Aux Folles." His intentionally unfathomable accent -- an international mingling of almost every tongue -- is a steal from Bronson Pinchot's similar shtick in "Beverly Hills Cop."

It has its moments, though. "Ah se-jooz that we s'lect a cack ferz," he tells a blank-faced Martin, suggesting the family choose a wedding cake first. But Short overdoes it; he's still conditioned to the exaggerated mannerisms of TV comedy. All in all, may ah se-jooz we shoot heem?

Martin's performance is a tour de face, as he realizes with sickening horror he's lost his little girl. When Bryan (George Newbern) caresses Williams's knee, Martin's mug contorts into a stormy weather front, then hides behind twisted politeness. He can barely conceal an appalled "oooh!" His whole body goes to comic work when Martin and Keaton (wearing a fixed, maternal smile throughout the proceedings) visit Bryan's parents. Martin manages to destroy a bathroom mirror and end up in the swimming pool, the host's bank book in his hand and Dobermans barking around him. This marks one of the last times "Bride" is truly funny. And at that point, the wedding's still months away.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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