TThe serious, mid-budget studio comedy comes back to life this week with HBO Max’s sleek remake of Father of the Bride, a mostly charming throwback to a time of great music, great speeches and great kitchens. It’s a story told twice before, once in the 1950s by Vincente Minnelli with the help of Spencer Tracy and decades later with Nancy Meyers leading Steve Martin, but it’s a dynamic we’ve seen far more times than that, the overprotective father struggling to let go. your beloved daughter to go, especially when she is walking up the aisle.
That is such a familiar setting that our minds instantly go into comedy territory – father wagging finger, daughter hands on hips – and so, to its credit, Mexican director Gary Alazraki’s direct-to-stream remake manages to feel bigger than that. , not just because it feels like a gaudy theatrical release, but because by dragging the oft-told story into the 2020s, it finds a way to make it specific and culturally expansive. Along with screenwriter Matt Lopez, he shifted the traditional Vespa tale into more diverse and dramatically interesting territory, with a Cuban-American family at the center. El Padre de la Novia, as he is also known, centers on Billy (Andy Garcia), an exile who rose from nothing to become a successful architect in Miami with his devoted wife Ingrid (an extremely rare role for Gloria Estefan). on your side. But decades later, their marriage has soured and when their daughter Sofia (Morbius star Adria Arjona) returns home from law school, they decide to reveal their divorce to the family. Before they can, they are surprised by even greater news, Sofia is getting married and intends to do so in just four weeks.
Even if you haven’t seen either of the previous two versions, where the story goes – from fighting to making amends, monologue about disagreements and then making up – will offer few surprises. But the pleasure of a film like this, and the films it competently recalls, is less in what’s being told and more in how it’s being told, and Alazraki, with his biggest film to date, proves to be a gifted hand in crafting the story. kind of high-gloss studio shots we don’t see much anymore. The much buzz about the return of romantic comedies, for me, offered very little joy and was mostly done on a tight budget and very little art. But Alazraki recognizes that the wrapping is just as important as what’s inside, and he brings a level of opulence adjacent to Nancy Meyers with an evocative soundtrack, an extravagant use of Miami locations, and the requisite amount of home-cooked food and pornography (a false – taking a last minute wedding prep sequence is one of the most delicious things I’ve seen all year).
What the recent revival of romantic comedies has tried to correct is the mostly white and almost entirely straight nature of many of the films many of us grew up with, allowing a wider spectrum of characters to finally get through the airport moment. Retelling Father of the Bride with an almost exclusively Latino cast works so well because Lopez’s script has a specificity that gives the film its own distinct character, addressing intra-community conflicts and basing the father’s actions on what he experienced as a Cuban exile in the USA, which gives an additional texture to the way he handles ideas of money and tradition. His character represents the old world and his future son-in-law the new, with the latter played by Mexican singer and actor Diego Boneta, choosing soft-spoken liberalism over a more traditional form of hypermasculinity (he’s, sip, not really into sports). ). But instead of falling into regressive boomer vs millennial, alpha vs beta stereotypes (as in 2019’s disgusting Shaft sequel), Lopez’s surprisingly deft script shows that it’s the eldest who needs to grow up and learn and that the progressivism of younger man is something that can help. him out of the rut he’s stuck in.
It’s even more disappointing that the other daughter, played by the ever-magnetic Isabela Merced, is cursed with an embarrassingly shy Hays Code-era gay storyline that’s so vague it might as well not exist. It reeks of cowardice as to how this is still happening, which is strange given the movie is skipping a theatrical release, so one would assume the territory is less sensitive. There are also some confusing mistakes in how the film handles wealth, particularly the inconsistency of what the daughter does and doesn’t want in her marriage, asking for something small and earthy while hiring an ostensible wedding planner via Instagram. It’s all purely to credit Martin Short’s character in the 1991 film and allows for a rather shocking twist from SNL’s hilarious Chloe Fineman. Garcia lacks Steve Martin’s comedic skills and so the film wisely cuts down to more pronounced comedy, a wise choice given the cast, but a few more laughs wouldn’t have gone wrong. While the script could also have given Estefan a little more to do, she has a warm and easy chemistry with Garcia, the duo taking the material more seriously than they often deserve.
There’s nothing particularly notable about Father of the Bride 2022 (would there really be?) but it’s a far better and smoother movie than one would expect from the start, a streaming debut made with such confidence that it’s sure to run on the big screen.