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Divorce mediators and best friends John and Jeremy live for the wedding season in Washington, D.C. Hopeless romantics? Nope. Relentless womanizers? Exactly. Operating by a set of complicated wedding-crashing rules, they assume new identities every weekend and invade a new set of nuptials in search of bridesmaids to bed. The theory is that women at weddings are all aflutter with romance, meaning they’re more likely to indulge in sex with a charming stranger.
After a busy season packed with big lies, free food and anonymous sex, John is starting to feel tired and “not sleazy exactly,” but “irresponsible.” Jeremy talks him into crashing one more wedding, the biggest of the year. There, John makes the mistake of falling for Claire, the bride’s sister and daughter of the U.S. Treasury Secretary. Jeremy has sex on the beach with Gloria, her clingy, psychotic, possibly virgin sister. Things get complicated—and even more deviant—when they break their own rules and agree to spend the weekend with the dysfunctional Cleary family and Claire’s aggressive society boyfriend, Zach.
Wedding Crashers wallows in its negative elements, fishing for humor in a sea of “shocking” immorality. The closest it veers towards anything positive is that John eventually seems to feel something like guilt, although he can’t ever quite bring himself to call anything he’s done “wrong.” He even asserts that he can’t regret his actions, since they brought him and Claire together.
All the weddings happen in churches, under the watchful eye of a variety of priests, pastors and rabbis. At the Cleary wedding, John and Jeremy bet on whether the Scripture read will be 1 Corinthians 13 or Colossians 3:12. At another wedding, we hear part of a joke John is telling about Jesus walking on the water. Scripture is also read aloud at a funeral.
The Cleary family priest prays for a meal and passively receives a profane confession (and a kiss on the lips) from Jeremy. Zach says he’s seeing a Buddhist monk, the Dali Lama, for his aggressive competitiveness.
Here is where Wedding Crashers fully embraces its R rating, delivering crass, vulgar and obscene content without restraint. Near-constant crude dialogue includes talk of gay sex, sex with twins, being “inside” a sex partner, rubbing sexually against sweaty dance partners and “getting some strange a--.” And most of that happens in the first five minutes.
Much of what happens during the remaining two hours I can only allude to in print, and I'll do so as circumspectly as possible. A montage shows five or six of John’s and Jeremy’s conquests falling back on beds in bras or fully topless followed by one of the guys climbing on top. And there are other sex scenes, too. Rear nudity and breast nudity get screen time.
The much older and usually drunk Mrs. Cleary comes on to John, eventually cornering him, forcing him to touch her breasts (the camera sees his hands cupped over them). After sex on the beach, Gloria tells Jeremy it was her first time. Later, she becomes sexually aggressive, opening her shirt and straddling him in a restroom though he resists. She also fondles him under the table while the family is eating (the scene implies that he climaxes, and the camera peeks under the table several times). A "rape" scene involves a nude Gloria tying Jeremy to his bed while he sleeps and then gagging him when he wakes up. After she leaves, but before he's loosed, her gay brother gets into bed with him and climbs on top of him.
Zach injures Jeremy with repeated hard hits in a touch football game. When Jeremy resists Gloria’s advances, she angrily slaps a bleeding cut on his knee and squirts it with something caustic. To get some alone time with Claire, John poisons Zach’s drink with eyedrops, causing him to become violently ill. On a quail hunt, Zach intentionally shoots Jeremy in the rear end. Zach and friends beat up another character, and Zach eventually gets punched himself.
Crude or Profane Language
In addition to using God’s and Jesus’ names for swearing 10-15 times each, profanity includes about 25 f-words, 15 s-words and 15 uses of "a--" (in various forms). Crude language includes multiple references to both male and female anatomy, as well as derogatory names for women ("b--ch," "slut," etc.). The terms “homo,” “dyke” and “rug muncher” are applied to gays.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Alcohol flows freely, consumed in large quantities by John, Jeremy and other guests at the weddings, dinners and on the Cleary estate. Jeremy drinks early and often, and his office is well-stocked with liquor. At a wedding, a boy suggests that a piece of paper is for “rolling a fatty” (marijuana joint).
Other Negative Elements
The foul-mouthed Grandma Cleary uses repeated crude language to describe her belief that Eleanor Roosevelt was a lesbian. Jeremy’s mentor, Chazz, describes how easy it is to crash funerals and pick up women for sex, explaining that “grief is nature’s most powerful aphrodisiac.” John and Jeremy use fake Purple Heart medals to impress women.
According to the Los Angeles Times, director David Dobkin was contractually obligated by the studio to deliver a PG-13 rating for Wedding Crashers. That’s because R-rated comedies tend to crash at the box office. But an unfunny thing happened on the way to the ratings board. Test audiences for early, uncut versions of the film ranked the scenes containing the raunchiest material as their favorites. So New Line Studio decided to embrace the R rating.
Production president Toby Emmerich told Entertainment Weekly, “There’s a way to wear an R as a badge of honor and say this is a little different, this takes things a little further. There is a positive spin to the R.”
Of course, the negative spin to the scenario is that test audiences didn’t find much to laugh at outside of the raunch. I can see why. The sometimes engaging Owen Wilson doesn’t really, struggling to keep pace with Vince Vaughn’s manic energy. The talented Christopher Walken, meant to draw laughs as the intimidating dad, is given nothing funny or threatening to do. Dr. Quinn’s Jane Seymour is just plain sad and creepy as the lushy, breast-exposing matriarch. And then there’s the unbelievable “love story.” How foolish is Rachel McAdam’s character to stick with her acidic, unfaithful boyfriend for so long only to replace him with a confessed career liar and womanizer?
So what do you do with a lousy PG-13 comedy? Load it up with sex and nudity and f-bombs, and hype the R-rated sleaze. After all, the logic goes, if it doesn't fly at the box office, you can always make up the cash in DVD sales. As Dobkin told EW, “You can’t make movies for the ratings system. You’ve got to make the movie that’s right for the story and let the rest fall into place.”
What falls into place is an ugly, soulless, unfunny film about a couple of guys in their mid-30s who only give up mistreating women for sex when they happen to fall for a couple of gals unbalanced or dumb enough to fall for them, too. Good times.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Owen Wilson as John Beckwith; Vince Vaughn as Jeremy Grey; Rachel McAdams as Claire Cleary; Christopher Walken as William Cleary; Isla Fisher as Gloria Cleary; Jane Seymour as Kathleen Cleary; Will Ferrell as Chazz; James Carville as Himself; John McCain as Himself
David Dobkin (Shanghai Knights)
New Line Cinema