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Here comes ‘Father of the Bride’

June 20, 2022
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It’s no secret that remakes have become a huge part of the Hollywood landscape. It makes sense from a studio standpoint – they make movies to make money, so why not take something with a proven track record and run it back?

But here’s the thing – while it may feel more common today, this has been a cinematic M.O. for a long time.

Take “Father of the Bride,” the new film streaming on HBO Max. This movie is a remake, yes … but it isn’t the first time. Back in 1950, “Father of the Bride” hit screens, based on the 1949 Edward Streeter novel of the same name. Then, in 1991, we got a remake of that film. And now, in 2022, well … here comes the “Father of the Bride” yet again.

This latest iteration offers a Latin twist on the tale, with the central family consisting of Cuban-Americans and the action based in and around Miami. It’s got plenty of charm, thanks largely to its engaging cast and endearing story. Granted, there’s nothing particularly new here, with the basic structure repeating from previous films, but that’s OK – there’s a comfort food vibe to the proceedings that makes for a light, lovely watch.

Billy Herrera (Andy Garcia) is a renowned architect, living in Miami with his wife Ingrid (Gloria Estefan). He worked his way up from nothing, turning himself into a success through hard work and will. However, that work ethic has taken a toll on his marriage – despite an extended period in counseling, it appears that the union has run its course.

Now, they just have to tell the kids.

The plan is to tell them that night, since elder daughter Sofia (Adria Arjona) is back in town for a visit; she’s a recent law school grad working in New York City. Younger daughter Cora (Isabela Merced) is also there, though she’s not quite the outward success that her sister is – she’s an aspiring fashion designer who’s struggling to find her way. But the plan quickly goes awry when Sofia announces her engagement to fellow lawyer Adan (Diego Boneta) and their intention to marry in just a month before heading to Mexico to work for a nonprofit. Billy and Ingrid agree to wait until after the wedding to share the news of their divorce.

Even without the divorce announcement, there are plenty of conflicts at play. Billy wants a big wedding, one that includes all of their extended family and an assortment of friends, associates and well-wishers; Sofia and Adan want something small and simple. Billy also has issues with the idea of Sofia and Adan moving to Mexico and making meager nonprofit wages. And no one is quite sure what to make of Natalie (Chloe Fineman), the wedding planner Sofia plucked off Instagram.

It gets worse when Adan’s family turns up. Specifically, his father Hernan (Pedro Damian), who happens to be an incredibly wealthy beer mogul; Billy’s insecurities, already running rampant, are escalated by Hernan’s offers to foot the bill for an even bigger wedding than previously planned.

Interpersonal issues escalate. Secrets are revealed. Plans are made, altered, cancelled and remade. Will the wedding even happen? And if it does, where will we find the father of the bride?

“Father of the Bride” works. It works because it revolves around a simple and relatable conceit; we’re all familiar with how weddings operate. The basics are essentially the same for any wedding – the primary differences boil down to scale. Just about all of us will see some part of ourselves in one or more of the figures involved in this particular process; it’s a reflection that engages us.

Director Gary Alazraki and screenwriter Matt Lopez are clearly aware of the value inherent to that built-in familiarity. Neither one of them is interested in trying to turn this story into something fundamentally different from what it already is; their work is down to the details. The specifics of the story – the who and the where and the why – are fitted snugly into the extant structure. The result is a movie that will feel like a fond memory while also bringing a spark of new energy to the table.

And so much of that spark is delivered by the talented cast. Andy Garcia is the latest to fill the shoes of the titular father, following in the footsteps of Spencer Tracy and Steve Martin. He’s a different kind of dad, but it’s a welcome breath of fresh air, capturing a whole different type of cultural tradition. He’s smooth and suave, even in the moments when he’s coming unraveled. Gloria Estefan is a delight as Ingrid; she’s not an actor on Garcia’s level, but their comfort and chemistry do the vast majority of the heavy lifting. Their dynamic is a delight to watch. Arjona and Boneta make a beautiful and charming couple; they’re easy to buy on just about every level. There’s a vivaciousness to Arjona and a low-key sweetness to Boneta that makes them great to watch.

The supporting cast is massive, populated with talented performers who go the extra mile in creating people that feel very real. There are no weak links, though there are a few highlights – Damian is the right flavor of charismatically unhinged; Fineman is the essence of the self-awareness-lacking influencer; Merced basically carries an entire subplot on her own. Still, it’s the rare large cast where literally everyone handles their business well.

“Father of the Bride” isn’t earth-shattering cinema. It isn’t going to shift the paradigm. But it’s not meant to do those things. What it is meant to do is entertain … and it absolutely does that. It is sweet and funny, lightweight even in its occasional heavier moments. The cast is great, the cultural shift is well-handled and you’ll be left with a smile on your face.

Say “I do” to “Father of the Bride” – you’ll be glad you did.

[3.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 20 June 2022 15:42

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