Mother of the Bride movie review (2024) | Roger Ebert

29 days ago

I am normally a fan of the films Brad Krevoy and Steve Stabler (working under the moniker Motion Picture Corporation of America) have made with Netflix. I've rewatched both "The Knight Before Christmas" and "A Castle for Christmas" (also starring Shields) more times than I care to share. I've even written positively about the Lindsay Lohan vehicles "Falling for Christmas" and "Irish Wish" on this very website. Director Mark Waters has a pretty strong track record in the genre, helming star-studded films like the original "Mean Girls," "Freaky Friday," and "Just Like Heaven." Even his less-than-stellar films like "Head over Heels" and "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” are, I confess, guilty pleasures.

Mother of the Bride movie - Figure 1
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So what exactly went so wrong here? The hackneyed script from Robin Bernheim, best known for writing and producing the Netflix "The Princess Switch" trilogy, strands the film's cast in shallow waters. 

Shields is game as Lana, a world-renowned geneticist nursing some decades-old romantic wounds. This vein of slightly neurotic, screwball comedy is something she's honed since her "Suddenly Susan" sitcom days. Lana goes into a full-on tailspin when she discovers her daughter Emma (an incredibly bland Miranda Cosgrove) is marrying RJ (Sean Teale), who turns out to be the son of Will (Benjamin Bratt, sadly sapped of his trademark charm), the man who broke her heart in college. Rachael Harris basically plays herself as Lana's perpetually horny cougar sister, who at one point describes a beefed-up Chad Michael Murray as a "Hemsworth hottie." Michael McDonald and Wilson Cruz play the token happily married gay couple, whose entire raison d'être is to be sassy and supply the audience with exposition. 

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Emma is a lifestyle influencer who has inked a six-figure deal with a mega-corp to which she has essentially sold her wedding as a product to promote their resort in Phuket, Thailand. While there is endless chatter about Instagram photo shoots and designer dress fittings, the film doesn't explore the economics in play here. What could have been a sharp satire about the commodification of our lives, down to those days that are supposed to be the most sacred, becomes a limp lesson in work-life balance. This theme is so threadbare it makes "27 Dresses" seem downright didactic in comparison. The only cast member who seems to be on this satirical page is Tasneem Roc as a singularly unhinged brand manager named Camala, who mercifully supplies the film with its few paltry laughs.

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You may have noticed I have not even mentioned the groom yet. That is because he may as well not even be in the film. His character is so underdeveloped, he feels like those Instagram boyfriends who take pictures of their influencer girlfriends but whose face you never see. Only he doesn't even do that! Vague dialogue in the beginning explains his job and how he and Emma met and fell in love. Still, it's so inconsequential by the time you get to the actual wedding you not only don't remember who's getting married, you don't even know why they're getting married. What do they like about each other? How does he make money? Why does his dad give them a multi-millionaire dollar condo in Tribeca if they met and fell in love while working together in London? The script would have to include something other than stock characters to answer any of those questions. 

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Maybe a film this shallow is exactly what this sub-genre deserves, considering how blissfully unaware any of these films (even the ones I enjoy) tend to be about the obscene privilege and wealth that someone must have to attend a destination wedding in the first place. Maybe, in some twisted way, the hollowness of this film is its own kind of criticism. 

It’s a shame to see someone as talented as Shields end up in drivel like this. Ultimately, “Mother of the Bride” is the nadir for almost everyone involved. 

Marya E. Gates

Marya E. Gates is a freelance film and culture writer based in Los Angeles and Chicago. She studied Comparative Literature at U.C. Berkeley, and also has an overpriced and underused MFA in Film Production. Other bylines include Moviefone, The Playlist, Crooked Marquee, Nerdist, and Vulture. 

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Film Credits

Mother of the Bride (2024)

Rated PG

89 minutes

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