I watch very little modern screen fare that I don’t have to review. Because most of it is so inept and woke, it diminishes me as both a viewer and fiction writer. But several people in my Cuban-American Miami orbit urged me to see the new, third, version of Father of the Bride, starring my Key Biscayne neighbor (though in a much nicer abode), Andy Garcia. I complied, having liked both the original MGM favorite with Spencer Tracy and the Steve Martin remake. Plus, I thought, how badly can Hollywoke mess up a sweet, funny, timeless tale of a successful businessman almost losing his mind while arranging the wedding of his beloved daughter? Unsurprisingly, the answer is worse than I could have imagined, for the two reasons I cited.
To put things into cinematic perspective, there’s a reason Top Gun made a billion dollars worldwide this year. It’s far from a brilliant work, just a competently made, fun, manly movie that respects its audience and contains no liberal messaging. In a decade that saw Best Picture Oscars go to The Power of the Dog, Parasite (2019), The Shape of Water (2017), Moonlight (2016), Spotlight (2015), Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014), and 12 Years a Slave (2013), the Tom Cruise film stuck out like My Fair Lady (1965 Best Picture winner). This indicates a dying artform.
How can we tell? Gone With the Wind stuck out in 1939, quite an achievement against Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, Gunga Din, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Young Mr. Lincoln, Only Angels Have Wings, and Charlie Chan at Treasure Island. Okay, the last one’s just to irritate progressives.
Ben-Hur stuck out in 1959, surpassing now acknowledged classics North by Northwest, Rio Bravo, Some Like It Hot, and Anatomy of a Murder. Not coincidentally, the old masters who made them — Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger — were still at the height of their powers.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial stuck out in 1982, but us youngsters barely noticed that year. We also went to see Blade Runner, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Conan the Barbarian, Poltergeist, The Thing, First Blood (introducing Rambo), Tootsie, Rocky III, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Verdict, 48 Hours, Diner, An Officer and a Gentleman, Victor Victoria, My Favorite Year, The Year of Living Dangerously, and — out of moral duty — Gandhi. Now there are just formulaic, tiresome comic-book movies and Top Gun: Maverick.
In this mindset, I expected nothing out of the new Father of the Bride other than a pleasant time, some ethnic familiarity — the Cuban experience in South Florida — and a great performance from the always excellent Andy Garcia. I got two out of three, along with a most unpleasant time, the standard Hollywoke casualty. All they had to do was recreate the appeal of the previous versions, driven by the universal pain of a father bestowing the daughter he’s protected all her life to another man forever. But they couldn’t manage that.
The film derails at the opening. Garcia and screen wife Gloria Estefan sit before a marriage counselor, she echoing the feminist cliché that he takes her for granted and she wants a divorce. She gives scant value to her husband for having come from Cuba with nothing and building a lucrative architecture firm that provided a safe home and hearth for their family. So, the story of a father’s challenge to mount the very event that will permanently separate him from his daughter must compete with tripe about hiding the imminent divorce from the family. It’s the kind of lazy screenwriting device to create a false conflict I would have given a quick pass to in my Hollywood reader days.
Not to mention it poisons the entire mood of the audience. Spencer Tracy and Steve Martin are just as harried as Garcia in their versions, but it’s evident they loved their pretty wives, Joan Bennett and Diane Keaton, and vice-versa. Gloria Estefan was no beauty even during the Miami Sound Machine 80s but replacing her Congaexuberance with a shrewish old lady persona works against her casting. A good writer would have made her an understanding, grounded mate like her predecessors. Hack writer Matt Lopez has her uttering phony strictly movie lines like, “We’re done.”
Yet Estefan comes off like Greer Garson in comparison to the bride and groom, possibly the most obnoxious young SJW couple since Meathead and Gloria. This makes Garcia a transparent Archie Bunker foil — and he does manage some Carroll O’Connor-level charisma. His law-school graduate daughter, Sofia (a grating Adria Arjona), plans to bypass top firms for a nonprofit one in Mexico, helping migrants cross into America. (How that’s legally achieved is never explained, but it will be a short-lived job by November 2024.)
Sofia’s metrosexual Mexican fiancé, Adan Castillo (Diego Boneta), would rather live in New York, but being a nontoxic male — recently called “total wimp” — plans to relocate with her to Mexico. He also wants nothing to do with strippers “exploited for money” during his bachelor party. Clearly Executive Producer Brad Pitt felt some empathy for an emasculated husband character.
The film goes further awry with the distasteful conflict between Garcia and Adan’s playboy father Hernan (Pedro Damian). This results in an incredibly painful, ridiculous scene of Garcia and friends challengingly singing the Cuban National Anthem at the Mexicans. Chalk up another charming property turned into a witless mess by Hollywoke. The Cuban element only made it a sadder experience for me.
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