2005-07-21 / Columns

If Tom Cruise has the intensity of a Jedi knight, then Owen Wilson has the bodacious audacity of Jabba the Hutt, and rarely has the Dark Side been this much fun.

Which would make Vince Vaughn Chewbacca—both in physical bearing and in downdeep soul. He and Wilson— without question Hollywood’s newest poster child—share some nice chemistry in the bawdy, freewheeling “Wedding Crashers,” easily the funniest film I’ve seen this year.

Wilson and Vaughn play divorce mediators John Beckwith and Jeremy Grey, Washington, D.C., attorneys who’ve never quite overcome adolescence. These guys are woman-crazed, party-happy bachelors who sneak into weddings to meet girls. More precisely, to bed half-drunk, emotionally supercharged women whom they’ll never see again. Jewish, Asian, Irish, Hindu, Italian—no wedding is too intimidating, no ceremony without possibility, and they have the smooth moves and the convincing alibi (“We’re Uncle Ned’s kids, twice removed”) to get them through the door. The single women, the free food and the bottomless champagne glasses are never far beyond.

They dance with spinsters and tell fabulous stories and Jeremy even creates toy balloon animals for the tykes. It’s a ruse of course, single women being suckers for men who make balloon concoctions for children. The two are charming and wellbehaved and their actions, if not entirely honorable, at least come with a rule-laden code of conduct. They are very often the life of the party.

John and Jeremy hit pay dirt when they manage to crash the wedding of the U.S. Treasury secretary’s daughter. Sec. William Cleary (Christopher Walken) also happens to be a presidential hopeful, and the wedding has been heralded as the event of the season. Cleary has two unmarried daughters as well, the level-headed Claire (a delightful Rachel McAdams) and the pert, perky, absolutely insane Gloria (Isla Fisher). When Gloria falls for Jeremy and John falls for Claire, the duo’s normal love-’em-andleave-’em routine is thrown into turmoil.

When John and Jeremy are invited for a weekend at the Clearys’ opulent beach house— well, romantic comedies usually don’t get this close to slapstick. Or this close to belly-slapping funny. (Nor do families, one might hope, get as dysfunctional as the Clearys do.) Let’s just say that “Wedding Crashers” is unabashedly R-rated, uncommon for a genre that hopes to attract the teenaged date crowd—although “Crashers” uses its R rating to the max. The naked flesh and sexual innuendo fly freely, although some smart performances and sassy dialogue keep the film far above the norm.

Owen Wilson pretty much plays Owen Wilson in the film—and why not? It’s worked in the past and works here as well. The real treat though is Vince Vaughn. Reduced lately to status of oafish lout (“Starsky & Hutch,” “Be Cool”), here Vaughn gives the kind of full-bodied performance that drove some nice indie films like “Swingers” and the underrated “A Cool, Dry Season.” As a team, these guys click. I suspect that we’ll be seeing more of them in tandem.

For the first 90 minutes or so, “Crashers” rarely loses its wit or its balance. As the weekend at the Clearys draws to a close, however, so does the film’s flirtatious ease, its roguish and burlesque quality. For a few moments, “Crashers” skirts toward a darker (and frankly, tasteless) arena of “funeral crashing”— although the plot quickly, wisely veers back again toward the bawdy sublime. Still, don’t expect much of a moral here (other than maybe “love triumphs”) because this is more “Animal House” than “Pillow Talk.” Yet for those of us who enjoy a silly romp, it’s a nice change of pace from the stable and predictable rom-com.

In a nutshell:

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn score major comedy points in an adultthemed story about two slick pickup artists who ultimately meet their collective matches. Sometimes love’s being blind is a blessing. For the most part, so is this awfully funny, slightly wicked film.

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