Father of the Bride ticks off the requisite boxes for a film of its ilk, and with some savvy, but its essential shallowness if troubled by rhetoric that exists somewhere between empty and offensive.
Director Gary Alazraki’s Father of the Bride marks the third film adaptation of the 1949 Edward Streeter novel of the same name. Both the 1950 and the 1991 versions were the epitome of wholesome, family-friendly entertainment, banking on the star power of respective leads Spencer Tracy and Steve Martin. They were also, quite frankly, two of the Whitest films ever made. This latest remake has no patience for such non-inclusiveness — and more power to it — focusing on the Cuban-American Herrera clan as they anxiously prepare for their daughter’s upcoming wedding to a young Mexican man named Adan Castillo (Diego Boneta). Patriarch Billy (Andy Garcia) is a famous and wealthy architect in Miami, where he shares a palatial home with his hot-tempered wife Ingrid (Gloria Estefan). Eldest daughter Sofia (Adria Arjona) — the titular bride in question — is a successful lawyer in New York City, while the younger one, Cora (Isabela Merced), refused to go to college and dreams of becoming a world-famous fashion designer. Dad is beholden to the traditions of the past, forever discussing how he came to Florida with nothing and worked back-breaking jobs day and night to achieve the American Dream. Mom is a former interior designer who now… cooks nonstop? This particular detail is never made clear, signaling one of numerous problems with Matt Lopez’s troubled script.
Adding a new wrinkle to the Father of the Bride formula in addition to its Latinx spin, the film opens with Billy and Ingrid at a marriage counselor, screaming at one another before Ingrid finally states that she wants a divorce. They decide to tell the family that night at dinner with the arrival of Sofia, but all plans go out the window once she announces her planned nuptials, forcing the harried husband-and-wife to pretend to be a loving couple during the brief two-month window before the wedding. Dad is of course outraged, especially once he learns that Sofia and Castillo are moving to Mexico to work at a law firm that specializes in… pro-bono work [shudders]. But let it be said this 2022 version is at least consistent with the others in that its wealthy characters literally have no idea how the real world functions, which offers a bit of realism to chew on. “My daughter has become accustomed to a certain lifestyle,” Billy explains to Castillo, which, gross. What follows is a story filled with all of the predictable hiccups, including Billy’s hatred of his daughter’s new in-laws, especially once it’s learned that patriarch Herman (Pedro Damián) has more money than God, and has the audacity to offer to help cover the wedding costs. There are also some last-minute cold feet, a terrible storm that wreaks havoc on the wedding venue, and that pesky secret divorce that will undoubtedly be revealed at the worst possible moment. In other words, it’s all quite obvious.
In fairness, no one watches a Father of the Bride flick for originality; if anything, the viewer craves familiarity above all else. All that’s necessary is a few laughs mixed with a tear or two, and on that front, the 2022 version delivers. What’s frustrating, then, is the sheer amount of missed opportunities. Billy discusses how the term Latinx is insulting because it places numerous cultures rich with specific histories and traditions under a single umbrella term, and yet the film has no interest in further explication this rhetoric or mining the cultural differences between these two families in any meaningful way. This point isn’t even used for comedic purposes, as the promised culture clash is pretty much snuffed the second it’s introduced — which is probably for the best, but makes the inclusion of this element all the more confusing. Here is a film that keeps playing lip service to cultural specificity while refusing to get its hands dirty, much in the same way it’s hung up on the individuals’ wealthy and lavish lifestyle but doesn’t seem the least bit interested in critiquing it. If anything, the movie operates as a solid endorsement for the one percent, which hand me a bucket. Meanwhile, poor daughter Cora seems to have had her storyline left on the cutting room floor, the character vanishing for large swaths of time, popping up occasionally to vaguely flirt with one of the bridesmaids so that this movie can pat itself on the back even though the corporate mandate seemed to fall in line with the “Don’t say gay” approach (it is set in Florida). There’s also a waterfall of topical buzzwords bandied about, including “softboi” and “mansplaining,” because this film exists somewhere on the hip-woke spectrum to be sure. Still, for all of these criticisms, Garcia is a true pro, and he and Estefan share an impressive amount of chemistry. Indeed, there’s a warmth radiating from Father of the Bride that makes one want to forgive its deficits, if not for all its pesky borderline offensiveness. There’s even an impressive long take near film’s end detailing the last-minute preparations of the wedding, all the way up to the ceremony itself, that proves Alazraki has some formal chops and an understanding of how to shape sequence. But the simple truth is that they need to be put to better service than yet another remake of Father of the Bride, especially one that is merely pretending to be something it is not. Sure, viewers will laugh some, maybe cry a little, but at what price and for what purpose? The age of remake abides.
You can stream Gary Alazraki’s Father of the Bride on HBO Max beginning on June 16.