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With: Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey, Bridgette Wilson, Justin Chambers, Judy Greer, Alex Rocco, Joanna Gleason, Charles Kimbrough, Kevin Pollak, Fred Willard, Lou Myers, Frances Bay, Kathy Najimy, Cortney Shounia, Philip Pavel, F. William Parker
Written by: Pamela Falk, Michael Ellis
Directed by: Adam Shankman
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and some sexual humor
Running Time: 103
Date: 01/26/2001

The Wedding Planner (2001)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jennifer Lopez once sprung into the movies with a delightful bounce. She was fierce, lovely, fragile, and powerful all at once. Although she was born in New York, she lent a refreshingly ethnic sex appeal to movies. In Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight (1998) she gave a great performance, responding to her father's birthday gift of a handgun with a brilliant "thanks dad!" line reading.

Then, just when it looked as if she would become a major actress, she took time off to make a horrible pop record. And, as horrible pop records will, it sold millions of copies, making Lopez richer and more popular than all of her movies combined. She also became a diva, suddenly appearing in airbrushed photos pouting and looking seductive. When she came back to movies, she was no longer the same. The new film The Wedding Planner is now the visual result of Lopez' pop career; homogenized, lightweight, and phony.

In order to be a successful romantic comedy actress, you have to come across as an ordinary Jane; someone who you could easily picture eating ice cream out of the box, lounging in sweats, and watching Sienfeld. The result of this is that women who see the movie can easily project themselves onto the screen, and guys can kid themselves that they have a chance with her. Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, and Sandra Bullock accomplish this feat very well. But Lopez immediately puts us off not only by her diva status, but also by playing a rich, fastidious character who eats salad off of a TV tray with carefully arranged silverware and a bottle of wine.

Lopez plays Mary the wedding planner, a transparent character who obviously overcompensates for her own lack of a relationship by putting energy into others' weddings. She meets Steve (Matthew McConaughey) and falls in love with him without realizing that he's her next client, along with blonde Barbie-type Fran (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras). It's the kind of sitcom plot that would evaporate if anyone actually talked to anyone else.

The film was written by a romantic couple, Pamela Falk and Michael Ellis (whose bio has to be seen to be believed), who are no longer together. Their script pushes every obvious button, from forcing Mary and Steve together at every illogical opportunity, such as in a dance class, where they are forced to dance, and on horseback, where Steve is forced to save Mary from her runaway horse.

Even if the script had been somehow readable or even filmable to begin with, that was all changed when first-time director Adam Shankman was hired. Shankman used to work as, get this, a "physical comedy choreographer." I never knew such a thing existed. His credits include: She's All That, Inspector Gadget, The Out of Towners, George of the Jungle, and The Flintstones. He's like a one-man bad-film factory, and someone has now let him direct. Every time a hole appears in the script, Shankman wedges a dumb "physical" joke into it. When Mary and Steve are shopping for statues, Steve leans on one, it topples over, and its penis falls off. Laughs ensue. In another scene, Mary escapes an ex-boyfriend by crawling under a table. More fictitious laughs.

The Wedding Planner was shot in San Francisco and it's the most clueless movie I've seen in years about how our city works. One character calls the city a "thriving metropolis." During the final, inevitable chase scene, in which Steve races across the city to prevent Mary from marrying a dim-witted Italian character (Justin Chambers) her father has set her up with, it takes him from afternoon until after dark to get from City Hall to Golden Gate park, taking into account that he travels over all of our picturesque hills located on the other side of town.

As for the acting, only Lopez comes out slightly unscathed. McConaughey looks to me like he should be playing bad guys; he's a little like an evil redneck character who wears spaghetti-stained tank tops. Dole out the Golden Turkey awards to Wilson-Sampras, Chambers, and especially Alex Rocco who plays Mary's father. These people should be flogged for their awful, annoying performances. Not even Kevin Pollak or Fred Willard can redeem this movie with their couple of minutes of screen time.

I'd like to think that this is a brief sojourn into the junkyard for Lopez and that she'll come to her senses. Sadly, though, that looks like a fantasy, as The Wedding Planner is being released in conjunction with another Lopez CD. Sigh.

(This article also appeared in the The San Francisco Examiner in a slightly different form.)

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