Wedding Crashers, by Albert W. Vogt III

My apologies for another curveball. I am still adjusting to having my Friday evenings full and watching all the great Marvel programs being released on Disney +. I am also up late on Thursdays and Sundays working, and I try to fill the time between my labors with something to watch just for myself. For nostalgia’s sake, I put on Wedding Crashers (2005). It is funny how you remember movies. I am sure I have mentioned this in the past, but what I remembered most about it was the relationship between John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and Claire Cleary (Rachel McAdams). I am a romantic at heart, and their romance spoke to the sentimental in me. I suppose I recalled, too, the tumultuous affair between Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughn) Claire’s sister Gloria (Isla Fisher), though it is indicative of the raunchiness of the rest of the subject matter that my mind seemed to have selectively forgotten. It is a film of contrasts, and this review will hopefully make that fully understood.

As you can probably guess from a title like Wedding Crashers, if not the promotional artwork, John and Jeremy have a hobby during the time of the year when most people are getting married of dropping in on these celebrations uninvited. They spend a great deal of time researching the families so they can concoct a cover story for their presence, assume those roles, and then have a merry old time eating and drinking for free. When you think about it, it is a light form of stalking. Their goal is to find a woman to have a one night stand with, which does not make it sound any better. It is lying, anyway, and they seem disturbingly good at it. But, they are young and successful, and their only thought is to have a good time. After the opening act, which introduces their sordid activities, we see them winding done from another season of dissipation. John is beginning to feel the emptiness that eventually comes for everyone who leads this kind of bacchanalian lifestyle. However, Jeremy learns of one last wedding to butt in on for that year, and that is of one of the other Cleary daughters. Against his better judgement (more on this later), John agrees to go, and they manage to worm their way into the festivities of a family with powerful Washington ties. The patriarch, William (Christopher Walken), is the Secretary of the Treasury. It is while they are about to enter the church that John sees Claire for the first time, and it is classic love at first sight. The roadblock to all this, though, is that she is currently seeing the equally well connected Sack Lodge (Bradley Cooper). Yet, because John and Jeremy were such a hit at the wedding, they get invited back to the Cleary estate for some post-nuptial revelry. Jeremy is not keen on this because his chosen paramour Gloria is proving to be a deadly combination of wild and clingy, not leaving him alone for long without attempting something inappropriate. He also bears the brunt of Sack’s overly aggressive football playing with the family, is tied to his bed by Gloria, is visited in the middle of the night by William, and is soon after given a nude painting of himself by the Cleary’s, er, alternative son Todd (Keir O’Donnell). All while Jeremy is basically being abused, John is trying to get to know Claire in a meaningful way, a departure from their typical modus operandi. Sack begins to become suspicious of John’s intent, and hires a private investigator to look into these two strangers. As John is on the verge of revealing everything to Claire, Sack announces that he intends to marry Claire and tells the family who John and Jeremy really are before John can explain. They are forced to leave, but John cannot get over Claire. He spends a great deal of time pining for her, trying to find some way of letting her know that he is sorry, and that what they had shared that weekend was real. The only thing that was fake was his identity. In the meantime, Jeremy and Gloria’s relationship, for lack of a better word, blossoms, and they decide to get married. John is initially dejected by this news, but then shows up for their big day at the last minute, thinking that he needs to be there for his best friend. It also affords him the opportunity to talk to Claire. Before everyone assembled, he wins over Claire, and Jeremy lays out Sack when he attacks John. As the four of them drive away after the wedding, they decide to try and crash another wedding together, for old time’s sake.

The above description of Wedding Crashers, if you have not seen it before, might paint a more sympathetic picture of Sack than he deserves. In many respects, he is no different than John and Jeremy. He lies about his own philanthropy and sleeps with many women even though he is in a committed relationship. And when Claire finally tells him that she is fed up with his treatment, he yells and cusses at her. Hence, you do not feel too bad when he gets punched in the face. What separates John and Jeremy, and John even more so, is that eventually they use their better judgement. I do not care for most of the material in the film, nor do I think it is funny anymore. While I watched it recently, I connected with John. I pray that we can all have that Prodigal Son moment that John does. Like when the Biblical version realizes that he is needlessly starving and returns to his father to be fulfilled, John recognizes that what he is doing with women is not only damaging to them, but is hurtful to himself. It is a familiar lesson learned by characters in countless movies. However, John takes it one step further, and this is something that helps make his healing more complete. When he finally has his coming to Jesus moment (a clichéd phrase, unfortunately, but useful) with Claire, he admits to all the awful things he had done crashing weddings. Still, he also says that he cannot completely regret them because they were what led him to her. I have known many Christians who, in either coming to the Faith or in living with it, have difficulty coping with the sins they committed. They forget that God can so easily wipe the slate clean, all it takes is a true conversion of heart. Even though John’s intentions are not evangelical in nature, they are also selfless because at the end of his speech he concludes that the things he had done would make it understandable that she would not want to be with him. The only thing he asks is that she not be with Sack. Claire was thus free to choose, rather than being swept along in Sack’s plans. In the same manner, we can choose God and be healed.

Despite the positive aspect of Wedding Crashers, I would not recommend it. The amount of nudity, cursing, and other suggestive material make it one to avoid. Luckily, I am going to Confession later today, though I need to be sensitive to not taking God’s grace for granted. That is something I had been talking about lately with my spiritual director. Either way, I am grateful for the Sacrament. As for the film, I will quietly put it back on the shelf of my mind’s film library, and try to remember that redemption is real.

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