The Films of David Dobkin
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Wedding Crashers (February 12/06)
Though the majority of it is surprisingly engaging and often extremely funny, Wedding Crashers suffers from a third act that's painfully overlong and needlessly dramatic. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson star as Jeremy and John, divorce mediators who spend several weeks a year crashing weddings and sleeping with as many lonely women as they can. Problems emerge after John finds himself falling for the bride's maid of honor (Rachel McAdams), despite the fact that she's currently dating a pompous environmentalist (played by Bradley Cooper). Director David Dobkin infuses the first hour of Wedding Crashers with a breezy charm that's difficult to resist, while the uniformly superb cast (particularly Vaughn, who's essentially playing a variation on his Trent persona from Swingers) often grounds the often exceedingly silly material in reality (or something approaching reality, at any rate). But at a certain point, the film shifts gears and becomes a conventional romcom - complete with the requisite and much-dreaded fake breakup. And then there's the final half hour, which all but abandons the comedic vibe in favor of something far more serious. Though this portion of the movie leaves it with a horrible aftertaste, there's no denying that the majority of Wedding Crashers is just about as entertaining as one could've hoped (if only for Vaughn's broad, genuinely hilarious performance).
Saddled with an absurdly bloated running time and a relentless emphasis on melodramatic elements, Fred Claus is far from the light-hearted, family-friendly comedy its promotional materials have been promising and it's ultimately clear that the film's target demographic - ie small kids - will find exceedingly little here to embrace. The premise is certainly sound - Santa Claus' older, resentful brother comes to the North Pole for a visit - but in the hands of director David Dobkin and screenwriter Dan Fogelman, the movie quickly establishes itself as a plodding and thoroughly tedious piece of work. This is despite the inclusion of an opening half hour that's actually fairly effective, as Dobkin infuses the proceedings with an appropriately fairy-taleish sort of vibe (complete with a narrator and a house in the middle of the forest!) The inevitable arrival of Vince Vaughn's Fred Claus, however, transforms the movie into an entirely different animal - with the actor's free-wheeling, fast-talking screen persona coming off disastrously within the context of a family-friendly endeavor (ie he's just not funny here). Vaughn's grating performance is exacerbated by the undercurrent of familial drama that becomes increasingly pronounced as the film progresses, and it's not much of a stretch to envision both children and adults finally losing patience with Fred Claus - which is too bad, really, given the effectiveness of the various supporting performances (Paul Giamatti, as Santa, is obviously a standout, but Kevin Spacey, John Michael Higgins, and Elizabeth Banks are all quite good here).